‘Have we lost library for our children?’ Parents take protest action against cuts
Labour councillor: 'This protest is just a snapshot of the rising public concern about Westminster Council’s plans to cut library services.'
12 November, 2016 — By Alina Polianskaya
Parents with their young children demonstrate outside Marylebone Library’s temporary base in Beaumont Street
PARENTS protesting outside a threatened library warned of a “huge loss to the community” from council cutbacks.
Westminster Council is moving the Marylebone Library from its temporary base in Beaumont Street to a smaller location in New Cavendish Street.
It is feared the downsizing will lead to the popular children’s section of the library being axed.
Mother-of-four Katy Nichols said: “The library moving to the smaller site means the kids’ library is closing, which affects us as my children love going. I think it will be a huge loss to the community.” She added: “I’ve got young children and we are regular users of the library. The staff are wonderful, really friendly and professional.”
Ms Nichols said it was not just the wide selection of books but the range of events that took place, such as toddlers’ singing sessions, that would be missed in the community.
The threat to the children’s library comes at the same time as cuts of £750,000 to the libraries budget. The equivalent of 17.5 full-time library jobs are expected to be axed.
A flagship new Marylebone Library was supposed to be built in spring last year, but plans to open it in Luxborough Street were repeatedly pushed back. The council said the development would cost £6million more than had originally been budgeted which was “not financially viable”. It has said it may be as late as 2020 before a new library can open at a permanent site. The failed project is believed to have already cost taxpayers more than £1.3million.
Labour group leader Cllr Adam Hug said: “This protest is just a snapshot of the rising public concern about Westminster Council’s plans to cut library services.”
Following the rally in Marylebone, many of the protesters went on to join a national march through central London, from the British Library to Trafalgar Square, to speak out against cuts to libraries on a wider scale.
The council’s libraries chief Cllr David Harvey said: “Marylebone Library will move to a new temporary location on nearby New Cavendish Street in February 2017, while we finalise the permanent site.
“A dedicated space within the library will continue to be available for children, offering a full programme of events including story-time, homework clubs and rhyme-time. We do not plan to close any libraries or reduce our opening hours. We will continue to have a strong workforce offering an outstanding and professional library service. We know libraries provide an essential service and bring communities together. We are constantly looking for new ways to modernise the library service and ensure that we continue to deliver value for money. As part of these changes, we have launched a consultation with library staff potentially affecting up to 22 posts – 15 in Westminster and seven in the shared service.
“We will continue to be the highest spending library service in the country by resident population and will still employ an excellent staff team with the right skills, knowledge and experience to deliver a high quality service. No one is far from one of our 12 libraries.”