Sunderland libraries facing closure under £850,000 savings plan

Washington Town Centre Library.
Washington Town Centre Library.
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LIBRARIES in Sunderland are facing the threat of closure as councillors prepare to vote on proposed service reforms.

A report by the executive director of health, housing and adult services recommends shutting down a number of the city’s 20 static libraries in a bid to make savings of £850,000 during 2013/14.

The proposals will be presented at a cabinet meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Services could instead be spread out into schools and community centres, functioning with the help volunteers.

The so-called new vision will see “the library service... become a beacon of excellence in the community for reading, learning and information”.

If the report is approved, a period of consultation with users will take place until March 20 before the new service is implemented from July 1.

The plans have met with a mixed response from some of the Sunderland’s well-known authors.

Bryan Talbot, author of Alice In Sunderland, said: “It is always the same when there’s any bad times, it’s the arts and literature that lose funding.

“The library in the centre of Sunderland is always busy whenever I go in. It’s somewhere for people to go and, of course, it hits poor people who want to educate themselves but cannot afford to buy expensive books.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland-born Terry Deary welcomed the plans and told the Echo the future of reading lies with e-books.

He said: “Libraries have had their day. They are a Victorian idea and we are in an electronic age. They either have to change and adapt or they have to go.

“I know some people like them but fewer and fewer people are using them and these are straightened times. A lot of the gush about libraries is sentimentality.

“The book is old technology and we have to move on, so good luck to the council.”

Coun Robert Oliver, leader of the Conservative group, agrees it is time for the city’s libraries to change.

He said: “It’s not just about reduced funding but looking at new models in libraries in general, like moving towards ebooks, which are the future of libraries.

“It is an opportunity to do it and I think the usage of library book has reduced so we need to look at the best use of our resources.”