In the last few years about twenty libraries have been closed and another ten more are waiting to hear their fate. Those closures have been due to £2.7 million in budget cuts. These new cuts are to reduce libraries budgets by another £10.3 million by 2015!
The latest round of cuts is will see a reduction in opening hours in nearly all remaining libraries by April 2012. Many libraries will lose ten to fifteen hours a week. Some will now be open for only 18 hours. It is clear the Assembly wants to go further. They hope that by running down library services through cuts in opening hours they can eventually close more libraries.
Despite assurances from the Assembly politicians that cuts will not affect front line services, it is clear that these cuts are 100% about front line services. This is a disgraceful attack on the most deprived, poorest sections of society and must be vigorously opposed across all communities. The Minister responsible for libraries – Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin – and the councillors from all the main parties who sit on the board of Libraries NI can intervene at any time to stop these cuts if they wanted to. But they have no intention of doing so. They must be forced to act by determined campaigns. Councillors sitting on Libraries NI should be named and shamed. Local communities and unions representing library workers should link up and mount determined campaigns to save library services. Opportunist sectarian politicians should not be allowed to pitch one library against another – we need to link up all communities together to say with one voice – Hands off our Libraries!