Closure date set for Sunderland’s City Library

Lib Deb Coun Niall Hodson outside Sunderland Central Library.

Lib Deb Coun Niall Hodson outside Sunderland Central Library.

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Sunderland City Council has called time on the City Library in Fawcett Street – setting its closure date for November 19.

The closure follows the council’s decision to relocate the library to the city’s nearby museum and winter gardens as a money-saving measure due to cuts by the Government.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

The date was revealed in the in the cabinet papers, as part of an agenda item on culture, which was agreed yesterday.

Following next month’s closure, the council will operate a pop-up library at the Fawcett Street site until the library reopens inside the museum on January 3.

The Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, will be transferred to Sunderland University and is believed to be heading for the National Glass Centre.

The council has stressed that the PCs in the computer suite and the microfilm and microfiche readers and scanners for the Local Studies Library, will continue to be accessible to the public during the temporary closure.

The public access computers will continue to be available both for the period of the temporary library closure and thereafter. The remaining library services will operate from a pop-up library in the current building while the move takes place

Coun John Kelly

The move will also not lead to a reduction in the number of books or staff, as had been feared by some.

Wearside’s Liberal Democrats, continue to criticise the decision making process, leading to the relocation

Millfield and Thornholme Coun Niall Hodson said: “It is saddening that this decision was taken without asking the public or elected councillors what they think.

“Residents and library users only found out about the city library and arts centre move because it was exposed in the media.

“When I tried to start a discussion about this issue at the last full council meetings Labour councillors refused to even debate the issue.

“We know that books will move into the Museum and Winter Gardens but I am really concerned about the future of computer access.

“Many people across the city use the computers in the library every day for homework, to apply for jobs or to complete tasks online.

“The Council must now draw up plans to provide adequate computer access in the temporary pop up library and in the library’s new home in the museum.”

Liberal Democrat campaigner for Fulwell and Seaburn, Diana Talbott Matthew, added: “With a downgraded library in the city centre and huge uncertainty about the future of access to computers when the city library moves, it is more vital than ever that Sunderland Council commits to keeping branch libraries open.

“Many community libraries were shut by the city council during the last library review a few years ago - the ones that remain, like Fulwell Library, must be kept open for book lending and to offer computer access as facilities at the city centre library are downsized.”

Coun John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health Wellness and Culture, said: “The City Library will close temporarily on November 19, to allow it to relocate to its former home at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

“The decision to relocate the City Library to its former home at Sunderland Museum is a direct result of the unprecedented cuts to council funding which began under the Coalition Government and have continued ever since.

“We were told that Government austerity measures would come to an end in 2015. As we all know that didn’t happen which is why we’re now having to look at services again in the light of £250m having to be saved from council budgets over the last six years and a further £74m to find by 2020.

“We are simply reacting to the circumstances we find ourselves in which are controlled by the Government, not by the council.

“We have worked very hard to encourage more people to use library services over the last three years and taking library services out into communities has proven popular.

“One step towards achieving the savings we need to make is the planned move of the City Library back to its original home at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens which will help sustain and provide real opportunities for both the library and museum.

“Much of the investment in the City Library refurbishment in early 2014 was spent on equipment – including PCs for the computer suite and new microfilm/microfiche readers/scanners for the Local Studies Library.

“The public access computers will continue to be available both for the period of the temporary library closure and thereafter.

“The remaining library services will operate from a pop-up library in the current building while the move takes place. The relocated library will open for business at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on 3rd January 2017.

“As for this matter not being discussed - my own recollection is that libraries were debated at length at the last council meeting.

“I have also invited Coun Hodson to come and discuss this with me any time – an offer which to date he has chosen not to take up.”