Birmingham library used by Jack Reacher author at risk of closure as locals stage 'read-in'

-Credit: (Image: Lee Child (TMS) Tower Hill Library (Google Maps))
-Credit: (Image: Lee Child (TMS) Tower Hill Library (Google Maps))

A Perry Barr library once used by Jack Reacher author Lee Child is at risk of closure - but not if locals have anything to do with it. Users staged a 'read-in' to protest at Tower Hill Library on Bescot Croft, one of many Birmingham libraries under threat of closure amid council cuts.

Birmingham City Council's bankruptcy will see over £150 million of cuts this year, with 25 libraries across the city at risk of closure. Residents are already fighting to keep Handsworth Library and Kings Heath Library open, however one library has a special link to a well-known TV series and movie franchise.

Jack Reacher may have Perry Barr to thank for its conception, as author Lee Child would visit Tower Hill Library as a youth. Local Liberal Democrat councillors started a petition to keep the hub open, whilst residents and authors staged a 'read-in' on July 6.

Read more: The battle to save Birmingham's libraries as campaigners say 'it's really sad'

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Authors from the constituency including Nargis Darby, J S Wilkins and Reba Khatun spoke to residents about their works and the writing process. Although the council state no decisions on individual libraries have been made yet, a phased consultation is taking place to explore the views of people on library services.

Everyone can also share their views on new approaches to how such services can be delivered in the future. Eventually a decision will be made after the final phase in September.

Tower Hill Library read-in with Perry Barr residents, authors and councillors -Credit:James Hinton
Tower Hill Library read-in with Perry Barr residents, authors and councillors -Credit:James Hinton

Local activist James Hinton said: "When I was a kid I would go to Tower Hill Library every week and borrow four books. These were four different stories I could devour and I remember how they lit up my imagination.

"The read-in was to help get an impression of scale of this community and what would happen if the library was closed. Tower Hill is not just books and stories but it is a community centre as well.

"About 30 people came where four authors wanted to inspire people by showcasing their books and talking about the writing process. This is not something for the council to wash their hands of.

"There is a consultation process but with previous consultations it was apparent decisions had already been made, so there is an element of cynicism among residents. Tower Hill Library has needed investment for years but it is hard to imagine the council will keep it open even though there is a real appetite for the library."

It is likely that libraries in the 25 neighbourhoods will only be retained if local groups and volunteers step in and the service can be moved into other neighbourhood venues. James claimed they needed more clarity before communities could pitch anything, otherwise it felt 'like they were walking into Dragon's Den'.

-Credit:Nick Wilkinson/Birmingham Live
-Credit:Nick Wilkinson/Birmingham Live

Birmingham City Council published the following update on June 27: 'The Birmingham libraries consultation has been taking place since 4th April and is currently running until 17th July. The consultation so far has included an online survey, online consultation sessions, in-person consultations and targeted engagement.

'The survey aims to capture the thoughts of those who live, work, study or have an interest in the city and its library services whilst recommending new approaches to how these can be delivered in the future.

'A summary of the responses from the first phase of consultation will show what the library offer could look like for Birmingham. This will be shared in the final phase of the libraries consultation which will be launched towards the end of summer, to allow the public an opportunity to have their say on proposed outcomes.

'The final phase will run from the end of August to Friday 27th September and consist of a new online Be Heard survey and in-person consultation sessions taking place in each library from Monday 2nd September through to Thursday 26th September 2024. The promotion for this will cover a wide range of communications to encourage all those of interest to come and have their say.

'Following the final phase of the consultation, the council team will analyse the results and present this in the council’s Cabinet meeting later in the year. Final decisions will not be made until after the meeting and results will be shared in advance across the council’s channels.'

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