Tag Archives: Libraries

Bid to overturn local libraries victory criticised

Following news that Batley & Spen’s four libraries have been saved from closure, the local Lib Dems have been accused of trying to tear up the council’s decision and put local libraries back at risk.

Cleckheaton library was, along with Batley, Heckmondwike and Birstall, one of the libraries threatened with closure that Labour councillors managed to save. Yet Cleckheaton’s three Lib Dem councillors, supported by others in their group, have backed a stunt that could see the whole decision unravel.

Lib Dem councillors have signed up to a ‘call in’ where a decision is brought back for scrutiny in a bid to reverse it.

Jo Cox MP, who helped fight to keep all of Batley and Spen’s libraries open, said: “From a starting point of considering closing all our libraries Kirklees Labour group and council officers have done the best job they could to protect as much of our library service as possible in the most difficult of financial circumstances.

“Attempts to derail this decision as part of a narrow political agenda is an insult to all those people who have campaigned to save our four local libraries.

“The other important thing to remember is that the library service is under threat and being reduced due to funding cuts approved by Tory and Lib Dem ministers when they were in coalition and the government’s failure to make proper, local library provision a statutory responsibility, with accompanying funding.”

Welcome reprieve for Batley & Spen libraries

Batley_LibraryBatley & Spen MP Jo Cox has welcomed news that all four of our local libraries are to be saved.

Kirklees Council will be asked to approve plans that will see Batley, Cleckheaton, Birstall and Heckmondwike libraries not only remain open but remain funded by the council.

Kirklees warned that in attempting to deal with the severest cuts from this Conservative Government in the history of local government, they would have to consider closing every library as a worst case scenario, meaning all four Batley & Spen libraries were under threat.

Mrs Cox, who campaigned to save all four from closure and launched a petition to save them, said: “This is a great victory. It is fantastic news and a welcome relief for thousands of local people who were desperate to save their valuable community resources and vital lifelines for so many people.

“This is a great result and the right result and I am delighted that the council has listened and taken on board the concerns and feelings of my constituents.

“It is a real shame that there will be cuts to services and staffing elsewhere in Kirklees but credit must go to the library staff, officers and Labour’s Cllr Graham Turner and his colleagues who have work so hard on this and, in spite of the scale of cuts they’re having to deal with, have come up with a plan that saves virtually the whole service.”

Mrs Cox used her regular column in this newspaper last month to make an impassioned eleventh hour appeal to councillors to protect our ‘awesome libraries’ and the librarians who make them great.

She added: “My campaign was attacked and criticised by the Conservatives, whose staggering cuts to Kirklees’s budget have caused this situation, but it goes to show that when local people come together in this way and fight for something they love that we can all make a difference.”

August column: Local Libraries

Jo Cox writes a column every month for the Dewsbury Press. This is the column for August, published today.

The British writer Neil Gaiman is known for saying very nice things about libraries and librarians and their value and awesomeness. He sees them as “frontline soldiers in the war against illiteracy and the lack of imagination” and the “thin red line between civilisation and barbarism.”

He also said something about rule number one being not to mess with libraries… although he used far more colourful language than I would dare in a family newspaper!

As a kid growing up in Heckmondwike the library on Walkley Lane was a regular haunt on rainy Saturday mornings or after school. I remember marvelling at the rows and rows of books and will never forget the librarian Florence Smith. Her enthusiasm and her knowledge. But also her creativity and ideas – there was always something going on to draw parents and particularly children into the library. Now, with my own children, I have spent countless hours in libraries – not to mention Sure Start Children’s Centres and can think of nothing better than snuggling up with a good book and two captivated little ones.

The Birstall actress Tracy Brabin is very clear that Batley Library was a lifeline for her and where she revised for her exams. They are a lifeline for job hunters without their own computer, slimmers, walkers, discussers, knitters and natterers.

We are blessed with some beautiful libraries. Cleckheaton and Batley are magnificent. Heckmondwike is what I measure all libraries by. And Birstall is a glorious, thriving community hub.

Where else would you find such a treasure trove of the pink-spined Mills and Boons romance novels, which remain extremely popular? And this year is the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. I was in Birstall library earlier this month – the decorations, activities – and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – were awaiting any child who was curiouser and curiouser.

Our libraries are so much more than just a repository for books. They are home to librarians! Some of our most precious public servants.

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one,” says Gaiman.

I was approached in one library by a woman desperate that it remain open. She’d been an avid reader but lost much of her sight. As a result she stopped reading altogether. She even lost the ability to hold a book in the right way.

It was the librarians who reignited her interest in reading, taught her how to read in spite of her sight issue and helped her learn how to hold a book. Without the time and dedication and the compassion of a librarian she dreaded to think where she would now be.

I don’t envy Kirklees councillors the decisions and responsibilities the government have lumbered them with. The Tories have been very clever in devolving their cuts to councils. As well as the responsibility local councillors are also taking the blame. Quite wrongly.

I just hope something can be done to save our wonderful libraries before they vanish down a rabbit hole.