TV agony aunt backs plans to axe nine Sunderland libraries

Denise Robertson
Denise Robertson
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DENISE Robertson has given her backing to plans to slash Sunderland’s library service.

The TV agony aunt told the Echo last week she wanted to meet city councillors over proposals to axe nine libraries.

But after viewing the controversial plans, the 79-year-old has given them the green light.

She said: “I believe a good library service is essential to a healthy community. It provides four things, sanctuary, access to reading matter, information and, in the 21st century, internet access.

“Sunderland’s libraries have given me more than I can ever repay, so I was anxious when there was talk of libraries being closed. Would all that I had enjoyed still be available to everyone in the city?

“Now that I have examined the new plan my fears have diminished. It is based on a review which, regardless of Government cuts, was required because library usage in Sunderland was falling sharply.

“Both the councillor and officer with responsibility for libraries are library enthusiasts.

“They agree with me on the four benefits libraries offer, but they want to make sure that more people, not fewer, access those benefits.”

But she admitted she would be sad to see the library where she borrowed her first book shut its doors for good.

Hendon library, in Toward Road, along with Doxford Park, Easington Lane, East Herrington, Fence Houses, Monkwearmouth, Silksworth, Southwick and Washington Green libraries, face the axe.

Denise added: “Under the new scheme, some buildings will go, including the one from which I borrowed my first book as a child.

“I will shed a tear when that happens, but the people of that area will retain everything that building offered, including librarian expertise, and receive many additional benefits.

“It is estimated that the number of library users will expand, even in the first year, as charities and community groups are given not only books but equipment and IT.

“No citizen will be more than two miles from a conventional library but extra library services will, in many cases, be even more accessible.

“And all four elements of good library service, including sanctuary, will be within reach of everyone.

“To demand retention of the status quo when the alternative could be better would be, in my opinion, muddleheaded.

“However, any plan, however carefully thought out, is only as good as its implementation. We need to give this plan a chance but I know the council are anxious to get user reports and act on them. I believe we have every chance of keeping all the benefits those wonderful old buildings offered while entering into an exciting new phase of library use. Believe me, I’ll be watching.”

Protestors have reacted angrily to the closures. Objectors have formed a Facebook group, Hands Off Sunderland Libraries, and an online petition against the proposed cuts.