Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Emotions run high at East Belfast library consultation

Last night I joined around fifty people in the Mount Conference centre on Woodstock link at a consultation on the future of library provision in Belfast.

This was one in a series of meetings being held across the city; some people suggested last night that at the very least the meeting should have been held in one of the threatened libraries.

It was clear from the moment that Irene Know took to her feet to give a presentation on the rationale for the consultation that this was going to be a heated meeting.

A number of other local politicians were in attendance, the PUP’s Dawn Purvis and Dr John Kyle as well as May Campbell from the DUP and members of the Socialist Party and the TUV.

I'm sure people will note the absence of the UUP.

At the meeting both myself and Dawn were tweeting regularly – www.twitter.com/niallsf & www.twitter.com/dawnpurvis

The main thrust of the meeting, with people venting it pretty clearly, was that they believed there is nothing wrong with the libraries that exist, that the review was unnecessary and that to remove the existing library provision would have a truly detrimental effect on the community.

People were angry, some were emotional, people made the case that the library was a resource to help them learn English, to get our elderly neighbours out of the house for a while and save heating at home. Others made the case that they either couldn’t afford to travel to a library further away if the local ones were to close, some made the point that as disabled people they weren’t able to travel any further than their local library.

The Short Strand doesn’t have a dedicated library resource, the Community Centre recently opened the Jimbo Farrelly memorial library, a voluntary based effort in the centre that allows people to bring their old books and take some away. It is a vocal point for bookworms and knowledge seekers in our district. It is a wonderful resource.

It’s important to remember also the role the local, established libraries play to for schools in this part of the city.

Another key point raised by a man who himself works as a librarian, is the ever growing need for computer and internet provision, he made the point that his daughter used the library to do her homework night after night as he had no computer or internet access at home. Sometimes we forget just how valuable the library can be for people.

Most people support library provision, I’m sure everyone has a memory of their first time going to the library. I certainly remember my Da taking me over to Central Library to become a member when I was very, very young. Both my parents love reading; they encouraged us to read too, my Da, myself and my two brothers would be regular visitors to the library throughout our childhood. When we would go to Central Library (which seemed huge to me at the time!) I would look forward to taking out a ‘Garfield’ or ‘Asterix’ book; as I got older it would become Roald Dahl.

Last night it was clear to me that the people in East Belfast are focussed and determined in relation to this matter, most of them were pensioners, and fair play to them, they have my support!

Like many throughout the city I will be watching the progress of this consultation carefully, I will be supporting the retention of accessible, modern and community based library provision in what is the ninth most socio-economically deprived electoral ward in the north of Ireland.

A lot of work lies ahead, after last night I am confident we can do it!

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who works for ni-libraries knows that they have an unsubstainable manangement structure,with far too many 'strategic' managers earning high (over £40,000) salaries. In the UK and the ROI libraries are council-run, which guarantees that they have some democratic remit. ni-libraries are a unitary authorty set up to boost DECAL'S mini-empire. They are run by a Board of 'great and good', including a Chair who had previously worked with AMEY PLC, the outsourcing company who run ni-libraries IT - very democratic! Give libraries back to councils, reduce management costs - end of story!