A sad day, but there is hope for our libraries
Today is a sad day for the users of Moorside Library.
After almost 30 years, we have closed a vital community facility that provided local people with a place to learn, to study or to use a computer to look for a job or a service.
It wasn’t our biggest library or our most high profile one, but it made a massive difference to the community it served and I’m sure it will be sorely missed.
Moorside was one of five Newcastle libraries that were due to close today because of the £100m we must save between now and 2016. This is a concrete example of the grim reality of austerity.
Closing libraries was one of our most painful budget decisions and something we did with a very heavy heart, but we had no choice. Reducing hours was not an option and would not give us the savings we needed to make, and the service quality we want to retain.
Originally, Jesmond, Dinnington, Denton Burn and High Heaton were all scheduled to shut their doors today.
However, thanks to other partners and people within those communities, all these closure-threatened libraries will now stay open.
In Jesmond, local people set up a friends group and a full community take over has now been agreed.
Dinnington library service will continue, but will be run from the village hall by a group set up by the local parish council.
And Denton Burn and High Heaton will continue to open for two days a week while we complete negotiations with Newcastle College and other partners and groups who want to help protect these services for the future. We hope that these will become partnership funded libraries, like Fenham and Cruddas Park.
I’d like to pay tribute to those local people and partners who have ‘stepped up to the plate’ to ensure these facilities stay open. They’ve done a fantastic job and demonstrated that there is a real appetite out there to run services that we can no longer afford.
In an ideal world, we would have loved to continue the core library service to these communities, but the harsh landscape of austerity, reinforced this week by the Chancellor’s Spending Review, meant it is impossible for us to continue the same level of service.
Other libraries are scheduled to close over the next three years, but we are working closely with interested parties and I am positive about their future as well.
As it is we have strived to make sure that the vast majority of Newcastle’s population still live within 1.5 miles of one of our eight core libraries. We also have our newly built and award-winning City Library at the heart of our service.
Today is a sad day for Moorside, but it marks a new beginning for other libraries and the communities they serve.