Nine Sunderland libraries to close as council bids to save £850,000

Southwick Library
Southwick Library
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NINE libraries are to close as part of a shake-up of the service aimed at saving £850,000.

Sunderland City Council says the move is needed to bring the city’s declining service into the 21st century.

The libraries facing closure are: Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green.

The proposals come after the first stage of consultation on the Future Library Services Review, which garnered 2,785 responses.

Council bosses are confident the changes will lead to more people accessing library services, reversing a decline seen in recent years and making things “less about books and more about access to lifelong learning opportunities”.

The new model would be based around five so-called library hubs, with the City Library serving the east of the city and the Sandhill Centre the west. Bunny Hill Library would remain as the main centre in the north, while the Coalfields area would retain Houghton Library.

The Town Centre Library would serve as the main hub for Washington, with all five open for 40 hours across six days every week.

In addition to the hubs, six community libraries will open for 15 hours a week in the same five areas, ensuring all residents are within two miles of the service.

Ryhope Library will serve the east of the city, with Kayll Road retained in the west, Fulwell Library in the north, while the Coalfields would keep Hetton and Shiney Row libraries. The Millennium Centre would become the Community Library for Washington.

Research suggests the 11 remaining libraries accounted for 87.5 per cent of all library footfall during 2012/13.

On top of this, library services would be extended into other community centres, including schools and children’s centres.

The plans also involve £500,000 of upgrades and the introduction of an e-book service that would allow readers to loan books to their device at home.

Those with access to the web will also be able to order books from an online catalogue to be collected at their nearest convenient pick-up point.

Community groups will be encouraged to take over the running of the buildings left behind, to offer other services, or even smaller library operations should they wish.

If the cabinet approve the report next week, the plans will then be put to a second stage of consultation, before being finalised in early September. It is hoped the reforms would then be rolled out from the week commencing October 14.

Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture said: “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 venues.

“We want to get more people using our library services and taking advantage of the fantastic facilities they offer.

“These changes are designed to help us to achieve that.

“We probably wouldn’t have gone down this route had it not been for the fact that 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.

“Libraries are so much more than the buildings they’re located in and the proposals we’ve come up with will make library services much more flexible to fit in with people’s needs, at the same time as achieving £850,000 of the £100million savings the council needs to make.

Conservative leader Robert Oliver said: “The proposals reflect the need to make savings but also acknowledge the fact that the library service in Sunderland has stood still for too long.

“Unlike other councils, Sunderland has not moved with the times fast enough with outdated computers and a lack of progress on e-books contributing to a decline in usage.”