Councillors, including Lochgelly and Cardenden ward Councillors; Mark Hood and Linda Erskine, are facing a public backlash on Social Media after voting to close 16 libraries across Fife.
The closure of the libraries were proposed to save Fife Cultural Trust, which is owned by shareholder Fife Council, £813,000 per year, with the closures to take effect by April 1st 2016.
A concerned Fife resident, Kenny Morrison asks on Facebook: “In an area of high unemployment with 28% of children living in poverty, surely education is the key? Closing schools and libraries seems counter productive to tackling these issues does it not?”
Councillor Bryan Poole who engaged with residents on the thread failed to respond.
Communities affected have been given the option to come up with viable alternatives to keep libraries open, such as community owned libraries, but they must get in touch with Fife Council before Christmas.
The library closures were voted through by the following councillors;
- David Ross (Labour)
- Altany Craik (Labour)
- Pat Callaghan (Labour)
- Mark Hood (Labour)
- Neil Crooks (Labour)
- Lesley Laird (Labour)
- Judy Hamilton (Labour)
- Linda Erskine (Labour)
- Bryan Poole (Independent)
- Andrew Rodger (Independent)
- Kay Morrison (Labour)
Users from Facebook criticised councillors for their decision with user Gavin Loudon stating: “Bowhill libary is being closed and cardenden has reduced hours, just like previous Labour council ripping heart and funding out of local community.”
Councillor Poole did respond to the resident: “Sorry Gavin – you’ve been taken in by the lies and misinformation via the SNP propaganda machine.”
Meanwhile Tracey Cunningham commented: “Books are a basic learning tool all should have access“.
Research has been conducted into the impacts of library closures, with many papers overall concluding that closures and reduced operational hours impact on communities, with libraries viewed as an important cultural and information junction for residents, a safe space for youths, and a lifeline for elderly and other vulnerable/isolated groups within communities.
Research conducted by the University of Sheffield “Access to Public Libraries – The impact of opening hours reductions and closures 1986-1997” concluded;
We found, on average, that about a fifth of users overall had not found their way to an alternative service, even though, in eight of the cases, replacement mobile stops had been provided. Loss of users varied between 8.3% and 29%. When we investigated the take-up of alternative services by some of the least mobile users in the community – young children, – we found that the figures for non-take up were generally much higher. In one case, over 66% of local library users under ten years of age had lost access to the public library service, and in another the figure was 39%.
Both parents and teachers believed that the impact of local library closure on young children was particularly severe. Their mention of the loss of a resource for general educational support, a resource for homework and an aid to literacy was not unexpected. However, what came out just as strongly was the way in which both parents and teachers felt the local library visit provided a much broader range of learning opportunities. The ability of a child to choose books for itself, to seek help from and talk to ‘safe’ adults, and to visit the library independently were all mentioned in the context of building self-confidence and social skills.
The libraries that councillors agreed to close are:
- East Wemyss
- Lundin Links
Author Alan Gibbons has publicly commented on Library closures saying:
“The National Literacy Trust says that children who go to a library are twice as likely as those who don’t to read well. It is not just picking up a book. It is the social experience of reading, talking about the books, browsing, comparing what you have read with family and friends. Librarians are gate keepers in that process. They open doors to new worlds, new possibilities. They ask library visitors to evaluate the information on offer. Most importantly, they give access to narratives. Children and adults do not just need information to thrive as thinking beings, but stories. Libraries are the temple of story. They are not in decline because of some natural, historic progression, but because of the monstrous cultural vandalism of savage cost-cutting. We will pay a terrible price for the behaviour of our masters.“