Church figures, musicians and authors unite against Sunderland library closures

Chaplain Rev Chris Howson pictured at Sunderland Minster.
Chaplain Rev Chris Howson pictured at Sunderland Minster.
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CREATIVE minds are meeting as they campaign against plans to leave book lovers out in the cold through library closures.

Literary fans reacted angrily to news that nine libraries across Wearside could face the axe.

Now Hands Off Sunderland Libraries is holding a public meeting to try and drum up support for its cause.

Michael McKnight, from the band Frankie and the Heartstrings, will be speaking at the event in Sunderland Minster on Wednesday, August 28, which starts at 7.30pm.

Joining him will be Mary Talbot, whose husband Bryan wrote Alice in Sunderland; Chris Howson, Sunderland University Chaplain; Mike Tansey, former Labour councillor for Doxford Park and Mark Metcalfe, who has written books on SAFC.

The Echo revealed in June that Sunderland Council plans a shake-up of the service, aimed at saving £850,000.

Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green libraries are all under threat.

Protestors have launched a Facebook group and online petition against the proposed cuts, which come after the first stage of consultation on the Future Library Services Review, which received 2,785 responses.

Organiser Gary Duncan said: “It’s a disgrace. The closure of nine Sunderland libraries will have a devastating effect on our communities.

“Why should Sunderland people lose services and suffer job losses when there is an alternative to cuts?

“The Labour council should refuse to implement Tory cuts and keep our libraries open. The message is simple: leave our public services alone and make the banks and corporations pay for the mess they made of the economy.

“We’d like as many people as possible to join the Hands Off Sunderland Libraries Facebook group, sign the online petition and attend the forthcoming public meeting.

“Together we can pressure our councillors to do the right thing.”

Plans are expected to be being finalised by councillors on Wednesday, September 4, and rolled out mid-October.

Speaking about the changes, cabinet member Councillor John Kelly said: “We probably wouldn’t have gone down this route had it not been for the fact we need to change how we do things as budgets continue to be cut and resources become ever more stretched, but we do believe the redesigned service will result in better services reaching more people across a wider range of locations.

“We’re looking to take library services into the places people go rather than expecting them to come to us, whether that’s schools, children’s centres, community centres or other community venues.”

The plans involve investing £500,000 in IT upgrades and refurbishments, and the introduction of an ebook service.