I get emails from strangers all of the time, but last week I got one that was a bit different. I was emailed by a young lady from Bury who asked me to help her raise awareness of Bury Council's plans regarding their library.
Bury Library first opened it's doors in 1901, and is housed in a magnificent old building right in the centre of town. This is a great location and that's probably why the Council have decided to alter the use of around two thirds of the library to house sculptures.
|5 of our children in 2009 on the 'Mousetrap' at Burrs Park, Bury ~ Part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail|
The brilliant Irwell Sculpture Trail starts in Bacup, passes through Bury and ends in Salford Quays and features over 70 different sculptures from some amazing artists. Bury Council want to try and bring more tourism into Bury Town Centre by creating a Sculpture Gallery which will be part of the trail. The place they've chosen to create the Sculpture Gallery is within the library. In order to do this they need to squeeze the current library into around one third of the space, strengthen the floor and move in the sculptures.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that this will have a detrimental effect on individuals and groups who use the library. You simply can't store the same amount of books and other materials in one third of the space, Children's story time is going to be a far more cramped affair and all of the library users will lose a lot of the somewhat limited space that they already have. People will also lose their jobs.
I'm a big fan of libraries, I don't take my children anything like as often as I should, but that's because I'm able to use the internet and computers at home. We use the school library to borrow story books and do our research online. That puts me in a fortunate position, I don't need the library at the moment, but plenty of people do.
Libraries don't only offer books, they have CD's, DVD's, maps and all manner of documents. They have local council and tourist information. They have free access to computers and the internet. They're really important if we want to ensure that every member of our community has equal chance to achieve their potential. They're about inclusion for some of the most deprived members of our society.
I have 1 child at University and 2 about to go to College. They need libraries, and if they choose a college some distance away then it'll be far easier to go and collect books at a local library. Parents with children who don't have a school library need the town library. Any adult who wants to read books benefits from a library. Lets be honest, a lot of older people rely heavily on libraries not only for the actual books, but also for the reason to go out and the company and interaction it offers. There is a very successful Knit And Natter group who meet once a week at the library, without available space they'll have to meet elsewhere. Libraries are for everyone.
Sculpture is great, but rather than spending £100,000 installing it into the library and placing tourism over local people, can't they just put it in the library garden or the existing Art Museum?
A lot of people feel very strongly about this -
The young woman who spoke to me has started a website with updates and information - Save Bury Library
There is a Facebook community
There is a Petition to Mike Connolly of Bury Council - If they get 300 signatures then it has to be debated.
And there will be a peaceful protest outside Bury Library at 11am next Saturday 23rd November.