Article published: Sunday, February 10th 2013
A popular library in a “homes fit for heroes” Fallowfield council estate built after World War I is threatened with closure – but locals say they’ll fight to keep it.
Up to 150 people from across Fallowfield, Rusholme and Moss Side gathered on National Libraries Day to protest Manchester City Council’s plans to shut the building as part of £80m cuts.
Save Fallowfield Library campaigner and filmmaker Jacqui Carroll described the library as the heart of the surrounding area.
“There are lots of really good people who live on this estate and the library is used all the time. Children have grown up in that library, it is a part of us all”, she said.
“It was built when this estate was built after World War I as part of the homes for heroes – and I bet we had a lot less money in the budget back then.”
Rusholme councillor Rabnawaz Akbar pointed out that closure would not just hit Fallowfield but also leave much of neighbouring Rusholme and Moss Side without a nearby library.
Residents said their library was vital to nearby community groups, with the building the only meeting space in the area for young people, the elderly and families with toddlers to hold events.
The library also used to host a popular homework club for local children eliminated in a previous round of council cuts.
Fallowfield councillors Mike Amesbury and Grace Fletcher-Hackwood said they would oppose the closure in Town Hall meetings. Local MP Gerald Kaufman was also in attendance.
The building’s dual use as an NHS resource for health information was a source of council income, they argued, making the net cost of the public library low and savings from scrapping it negligible.
Amesbury also pointed out the library had come top in a recent survey of satisfaction held across all Manchester City libraries, with public events in the last year up by 120 per cent.
The council’s head of library services Neil MacInnes urged locals to respond to the council’s consultation on changes to its library service. The consultation ends on 17 April.
But residents questioned the motives of the consultation, demanding to know how the results were to be evaluated and why it could not take into account wider areas of council spending. They also asked whether councillors would fight the £80m cuts imposed by central government.
The council plans to cut funding to libraries in Levenshulme, the site of a recent occupation the night before. Libraries in Burnage, Miles Platting, New Moston and Northenden are also up for the chop, although opening hours will be extended throughout the city’s remaining network.
Speaking for the campaign, Carroll said the much-loved library would not go down easily. “‘It is so important to us all that we do not lose this building and we will fight this threatened closure with everything we have”, she said.
The Save Fallowfield Library campaign is collecting signatures here, and meet at the library next Wednesday 13 February for the first of several open consultations – and to decide the campaign’s next steps
You can find more info about the council’s consultation details here