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The Laz Word...on Liverpool's libraries

Larry Neild fears for fate of least popular as thousands give views

Written by . Published on September 12th 2011.

The Laz Word...on Liverpool's libraries

LIVERPOOL realised in the 1700s the importance of books to a growing and enquiring world. The city boasted one of the world’s first gentlemen's subscription libraries, changing its name in 1798 to The Athenaeum when a reading room and coffee house were added.

Lister Drive LibraryDerelict: Lister Drive
Carneige Library
Later, in 1860, Britain's first purpose built public library was created here: the Picton.

Both survive to this day, the former housed in Church Alley and still a gathering place for the well-informed of Liverpool.

Will, though, the age of the public library enter a new chapter as councillors grapple with the need to slash £2m from the city’s libraries’ budget? That's almost one third of its total.

£2m may seem a mountain to climb – almost twice as the amount paid in councillors' allownaces which are in excess of £1m.

A consultation document was published today by the city council after more than 4,000 library-goers gave their views.

The least popular are Great Homer
Street, Croxteth and Parklands library
in Speke. Let’s hope there isn’t a
temptation to close them

Central Library, currently closed for a massive refurb, and Allerton Library are the most popular with 995 people selecting these as their preferred site.

The least popular are Great Homer Street , Croxteth and Parklands library in Speke with just 332 people saying they visited them.

Let’s hope there isn’t a temptation to close them. Indeed it could be said they are the very ones that need to be spared, serving, as they generally do, the more impoverished areas of the city.

Allerton LibraryPopular: Allerton LibraryLiverpool’s Labour rulers will have the grim task in the coming months of making tough decisions. Some libraries may be closed, opening times or days could be reduced, and charges may be imposed for things like computer use.

We live in a city where some streets have not a single breadwinner, where generations of the same family have never had a job. The public library may be critical as part of their escape plan from poverty, that access to the internet and newspapers to search for jobs and opportunities. Not to mention a free knowledge resource.

The 18th and 19th-century fathers – and mothers – of this great city realised the importance of knowledge as the wings of the great Liver bird spread across the globe.

Libraries served as dispensers of wisdom and wit - and even provided warmth for people escaping coal-less fireplaces in the icy winter months.

Least popular: Parklands, SpekeLeast popular: Parklands, SpekeInterestingly over 60 percent of those who responded to the consultation want the council to stay in charge of libraries.

Big Society ideas of handing them over to charitable trusts, or community groups, find little favour among the city people, though many people agree some voluntary work linked to libraries would be acceptable.

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “We are proud of our library service and are in the process of redeveloping Central and Childwall libraries and will soon be opening a new library on West Derby Road, replacing costly, older buildings.

"However, we are facing huge financial challenges and difficult decisions need to be made, and we can’t make those decisions without hearing from those who will be directly affected.”

Who, what, where

One in four people only use one library

51 percent visit a library at least once a week with almost 12 percent visiting daily

Afternoons Monday-Saturday are the preferred time to visit, with Monday being the most popular day, attracting 75 percent of those surveyed

3,300 people wanted to keep libraries open, but on fewer selected days

986 people wanted fewer libraries with some open full time

After book borrowing, the internet and computers were the most used services with 2,035 saying they used them frequently

38 percent of respondents who used computers said they would pay, and 43 percent would be willing to pay for events and activities taking place in libraries

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    Absinthe & TurksSeptember 13th 2011.

    How much money is it costing to demolish most of the Central Libraries? Travelling up the flyover gives a grand but shocking view of the massive destruction. Are the Central Libraries to be turned into another depressing collection of bare playrooms like the so-called "world museum" next door?

    Mike NearySeptember 14th 2011.

    Do northerners have any real need of reading? After all, once they've finished injecting all that lard and sodomizing their whippets I'm surprised there's time.

    Absinthe & TurksSeptember 14th 2011.

    Wendy Simon said "Older, costly buildings" - that have lasted a century or more.

    Will the ugly, tin bikesheds that will replace them last a quarter of that time?

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