May 10, 2013

6 Manchester libraries set to close


‘Not a closed book’, campaigners outside Burnage library in March

In the continuing losing battle to save England’s local libraries, it’s been announced that Manchester will most likely lose six of its libraries within weeks, if the council’s proposed cuts go ahead.

The six libraries—Miles Platting, New Moston, Northenden, Levenshulme, Burnage and Fallowfield—will close because of the council’s £80m funding shortfall, which will hit it over the next two years. Closing the six libraries will only result in a saving of £500,000 a year, arguably not enough to justify closing down what are very often the last standing community buildings in these areas.

What’s striking about these libraries is that they are in some of the poorest parts of the city, and very often provide the dual function of community centres, promoting reading outside of school hours to young people and providing an irreplaceable service for the elderly, young parents looking for books for their children and those without computers who make use of the free access to information and the internet.

If the decision is made it will happen despite several hard-fought campaigns to keep these libraries open. In March, campaigners collected over 4,000 signatures in a petition to keep Burnage library operating, and 60 children wrote letters to the local council. Protesters staged a sit-in at Levenshulme library in February, in order to express their concern that the council wasn’t being clear about its plans for the future of the library.

Manchester council is reassuring library users that it will invest £87,000 a year to start up and run alternative community libraries in the city, but this will most likely rely on the help of volunteers, investment from other organisations, and the setting up of ‘community book collections’, whatever that means. Don’t you see? It might seem terribly grim and really not worth the heartache, but it’s all part of the Big Society.


Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.