Following the announcement last year that Bristol city council intended to reduce the budget allocated for libraries by £1.4 million from its budget of £365 million, I have been involved in local campaigns to save our network of public libraries.
Although there is currently no plan to close Southmead library, 14 of us met there at 2pm on Saturday March 24 to discuss ways to save our libraries. We were joined by Labour councillor Brenda Massey who was elected to represent Southmead in May 2016.
The hour long meeting was lively and at times heated, with people expressing disappointment in the council for slow progress in delivering a verdict on the future of our libraries. The neighbourhood consultation of September 2017, completed by 3750 people, indicated that 17 libraries would be closed; leaving us with 10.
The Liberal-Democrat’s “mutuals-model” (volunteer-led) motion being passed at the November full council meeting, as well as strong public condemnation of cuts to the library budget resulted in the final decision on library closures being postponed.
Money from the department of culture was found for consultants to conduct a study and hold workshops with library staff and campaigners on running libraries with less funding. It is almost April and we remain blanketed in ambiguity; uncertain what the future holds for Bristol’s libraries.
During our meeting someone said that the purpose of public libraries needs to be redefined to get people through the door. Southmead library has succeeded in this. A knitting grouped nattered merrily as a live band performed opposite them.
Children played, coloured in and played chess while others read quietly to themselves. It is a lively, inspiring and inclusive space at the heart of its community.
I strongly believe that all 27 Bristol libraries can have a bright future if we invest in them. Let’s look to Southmead library for inspiration!