The Birmingham City Council budget for 2016/17 includes a new cut of £1.4m in the community library service.
The Council said that the effect of further cuts was not yet decided:
“It remains unclear as to the impact that this will have on the provision of the community library service.”
However, the announcement that the Library of Birmingham will open 12 hours a day from February increases the possibility that more community libraries may close or reduce their opening hours.
Five libraries closed
Community libraries have experienced cuts during the last years as a result of Birmingham’s financial situation.
Bloomsbury Library has been out of use since 2014 because of the condition of the building. The library facilities are provided from a mobile library.
West Heath Library has been closed since February 2014, due to “health and safety concerns”. The Council said the repairs were urgent, but people from West Heath are still waiting.
More staff at risk
Library users are not the only ones affected. The staff working full-time equivalent (FTE) has been reduced by 50% between 2010 and 2015, according to the Birmingham City Council.
Further cuts will threaten more people, warned UNISON member and library assistant Philippa Hands.
“No one knows what the cuts could mean. More than 20 members of staff may be at risks.”
A campaign to stop the cuts
Friends of the Library of Birmingham described the situation as “cultural vandalism” and urged the Council to stop the cuts. They have organised a campaign to raise awareness with meetings around the city.
Anne Gallagher, a former teacher and member of Friends of the the Library of Birmingham, said 288 million people visit UK libraries every year. This is a big ask that needs a professional service.
“When we go to the hospital, we expect to find a doctor. When we bring our kids to school, we want teachers. Libraries cannot be run by volunteers. A room full of books is not a library.”
Friends of the Library of Birmingham said Birmingham Council’s library chief Penny Holbrook is not answering their complaints.
Is your library affected by a reduction in hours? Has it closed? Is your library run by volunteers? Share your comments with us.