Rallying cry to save Sunderland libraries

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CAMPAIGNERS hoping to save several of Sunderland’s libraries from being axed have made impassioned pleas to councillors to rethink plans.

Council bosses said in June that nine would close in a bid to modernise services and save an estimated £850,000. 
Those facing the chop are: Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Hendon, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green.

Plans to close the venues could be formalised at a cabinet meeting at the Civic Centre on Wednesday and may be rolled out as early as October.

Authors Mary Talbot and Mark Metcalf spoke at a public meeting at Sunderland Minster organised by pressure group Hands Off Sunderland Libraries.

Concerns were expressed that literacy levels of youngsters and social mobility could be greatly affected should the closures be confirmed.

There were also worries that unemployed people will find it harder to look for work if they cannot access computers at libraries.

Chairman of the meeting Gary Duncan said: “We don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it is the Tory government that has cut the city’s budget by £200million.

“We want to say to the council to not make Tory cuts.”

Guitarist with Sunderland band Frankie and the Heartstrings, Michael McKnight, told the audience of about 30 people, said: “I grew up in Grangetown and remember going to Hendon Library as a child.

“It’s a no brainer for me to keep them open.

“Books are an art form and they inspired people like me.

“The way I got into music was first through reading children’s books and then poetry.

“Our children could be deprived of that and that’s something we don’t want.”

Journalist and author Mr Metcalf, who has penned various books on Sunderland AFC, said: “I wrote a book on the former Sunderland player Charlie Hurley and I would never have been able to do that if it wasn’t for libraries.

“It was there that I was able to research him through old newspaper match reports and also talk to people who saw him play.

“They gave me crucial information.”

Those protesting against the proposed closures will take place in a march and rally from Hendon Library to Market Square, in Sunderland city centre, beginning at 11.30am in Villette Road in Hendon on Saturday. Sunderland City Council’s cabinet will meet at 2pm on Wednesday.