Bristol’s Labour Group of councillors want to call a halt to the city’s libraries review which they say is rushed, and has failed to include many sections of the community, especially those who aren’t online, and even the library staff.
But stopping the closures is not enough – they say this is an opportunity to re-design the service to meet the changing demands of library users for the 21st century.
“Right from the start announcing a list of libraries earmarked for closure was a major mistake and this should be ripped up,” says Cllr Estella Tincknell, Deputy Leader of the Labour councillors.
“But this is not enough. Libraries must keep evolving to respond to changes in demand, and to offer new kinds of services,” she says.
One much-valued service is free computer use, which is essential for those who cannot afford to access the internet from home. Increasingly, jobs and council services are only advertised online and without their local library, many would find themselves “digitally excluded” from activities others take for granted.
“The recent consultation was largely offered online. Some library based events were put on as well, but shouldn’t we be surveying those who don’t use our libraries and asking what would attract them in?
“We need to engage with these people and provide what matches their needs. That’s how we make a library service that is fit for the future not the past.
“The current consultation and review has failed to do this and it’s hard not to see this as a cuts driven exercise hidden behind a smokescreen of a supposed root and branch review of the role and purpose of the city’s libraries. What’s more it looks like the plan is to rush this through committee to Cabinet so that a quick decision can be made. This is wrong and we need stop and think again,” says Cllr Tincknell.
Scrutiny will examine this on 17th July and Cabinet is due to make a binding decision on 4th August.