'Crazy' Nottingham library cuts could hit city's most deprived areas

Save Nottingham Libraries campaigner Des Conway.
-Credit: (Image: Nottingham Post)

Plans to close four Nottingham libraries have been described as "crazy" given that they will impact some of the city's most deprived areas. Services ranging from food banks to advice surgeries are provided from some of Nottingham's library buildings, with those opposing cuts arguing that they are "so much more than a place to borrow books."

Nottingham City Council is currently planning to close libraries in Aspley, Radford-Lenton, Basford and Bilborough in a bid to save £1.5 million from its library service over the next two years. The savings are among several being made to plug the multi-million pound gaps in the council's finances that are predicted over the coming years.

Des Conway was one of those who initially fought to save libraries in Aspley, Radford-Lenton and Basford when they were first earmarked for closure in 2022. The council eventually announced that they would not close in 2023, but Mr Conway says this has proved to be a "stay of execution" and that to see the council coming back for those same libraries is "distressing."

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As well as the closure plans, the council is planning to reduce opening hours across its network of libraries, including the Sherwood Library which is not even open yet. Mr Conway, who says the Sherwood proposal in particular is "embarrassing", said on the broader impact of the cuts: "I'm not proposing that they close Wollaton because it's a more affluent area, but this will really impact socially and economically deprived areas. It's crazy.

"The usage is on an upward trajectory and some libraries have tots groups, knit and natter groups, and I've heard that some libraries are getting really good engagement from people who are on the autistic spectrum who don't usually go to libraries." Also speaking out against the planned cuts is Wendy Smith, a former councillor and the former Lord Mayor of Nottingham.

The former Mayor said in an online video focusing on the Bilborough Library: "For some in our community, the library is a lifeline. In the winter, it's a warm space and twice a week, the community centre hosts our food bank.

"Both of these have been vital in the cost of living crisis. Our library is so much more than a place to borrow books... Who would lose out if Bilborough Library wasn't there? Parents, carers and children, schools, older people, job seekers, people looking for help and advice, people who are struggling to buy food."

Basford Library in Vernon Road, one of four that are at risk of closure
Basford Library in Vernon Road, one of four that are at risk of closure -Credit:Joseph Raynor/Nottingham Post

It comes as figures released following a Freedom of Information request by Nottinghamshire Live show that the usage of Nottingham's libraries is at its highest since the pandemic. Nottingham City Council's data shows 535,403 physical visits were made to Nottingham's libraries last year.

That is a huge jump on the year before, when around 365,000 visits were made. Although it remains below the year before the coronavirus pandemic, when around 880,000 library visits were made, the figures have significantly increased every year since the pandemic.

As well as opposing the cuts themselves, Des Conway is arguing that in-person consultation events should be held at the libraries threatened with closure. Across the 12-week consultation period, running from now until August 19, three in-person events are currently planned at the Council House, Bulwell Riverside Library and Harvey Hadden Sports Village.

Explaining why the events instead need to be held at the at-risk libraries, Mr Conway said: "Some of the people who use these libraries won't be able to travel to these consultation events and so they aren't going to be able to express their views, which is absolutely shameful." Nottingham City Council says it will also be hosting an online consultation event on June 14 which people can register for here.

Colin Wilderspin, the director of communities at the council, previously said: "Reshaping our library services and saving £1.5m is a daunting and challenging task, one that demands not just belt-tightening, but a reimagining of how library services are delivered to the residents of Nottingham. Regrettably this does mean the need to consider the closure of some libraries, which I know will be disappointing to users of the library services."

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