A CAMPAIGN to save Harrogate’s much-loved community libraries has today been launched by the Harrogate Advertiser.
With more than half of the county’s libraries facing closure, the Advertiser is calling on North Yorkshire County Council to recognise the devastating impact its proposals could have - and to reconsider.
We are asking the council to find any way it can to keep Bilton, Starbeck and Pateley Bridge libraries open and not simply to tell communities they must arrange their own services if they want them to be maintained. We are also urging as many people as possible to respond to the current consultation, which ends on February 28, and to help come up with viable solutions to keep the libraries open.
Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, has already set up two petitions against losing the libraries in his constituency and is talking to council leaders.
He said: “Libraries are a very important part of our local services. They are not just about borrowing books, they are about access to information, they are used as a meeting point for community groups.
“I fully understand the financial position that the county council is in, all branches of public services are having to endure the force of the cuts. But as they set about defining their financial changes I want them to understand the strength of local opinion on this. I want them to look first at cuts to bureaucracy, back office functions.
“I want to hear from them and have broader conversation about the state of finances for North Yorkshire. People love their libraries. Let’s hope that together we can help save them.”
Users of local libraries have also expressed deep concern about their potential closure, stressing how many services they use on their doorstep.
Simon Barron, 24, an assistant librarian at the Army Foundation College and a libraries campaigner, said: “More surgically precise cuts can be made. The county council is being a bit heavy handed in this - they propose to close 24 out of 42, which would leave 18 core libraries. That won’t help the more isolated in our community.”
Nina Jolly, who takes her two-year-old son to storytime at Bilton Library, said: “Libraries are sacred, they shouldn’t be closed. Although we have got the big library in town, not everybody can get to it.
“To close Bilton’s library would be to rip a bit of its heart out. If the council then decide to sell that building, it would be tragic. It’s so short sighted. Bilton Library is really well used.”
Theresa Bliss of Stonefall Avenue, Starbeck, said: “In my experience of the library in town, admittedly before the refurbishment, was that it just wasn’t a cosy place. The library is a community thing. At a local library, you get more. I was horrified when I heard they were thinking of closing it, my heart sank.
“Mothers with young children can’t access the town centre, it’s not easy with a couple of toddlers. They might make it once every three weeks, rather than once a week. People will use the library less and that’s such a shame.
“It tends to be the poorer places that lose out. Once the libraries are gone, we can never bring them back, and too many things like that have already disappeared.”
Starbeck resident Christine Stewart added: “This is so much more than just a library. Libraries are an extremely important part of our local communities - they are not just for reading.
“It is critical that we keep it there for children and teenagers that can just pop in - and they do, quite frequently. Starbeck, or any place, needs a library. Ours is particularly good. We will fight to keep our library.
“Together we can show support for what is going to be a really good centre. We must keep Starbeck Library.”
Mrs Stewart urged people to show their support for the library in the new centre by using it when it officially opens on February 7.
l For more on the campaign, see this week’s Advertiser, on sale from Friday, January 21.