Wakefield Libraries under threat of closure

Protesters are campaigning to keep Outwood library open. Three year old library member Lucy Hill (front) and Karl Grubb (right)
Protesters are campaigning to keep Outwood library open. Three year old library member Lucy Hill (front) and Karl Grubb (right)

HALF of the district’s libraries are under threat following a review by Wakefield Council.

Council bosses revealed plans for a transformation of the library service at a press conference on Monday, which aims to help them save £520,000.

It will see the creation of 13 ‘hub libraries’ which would continue to be run by the council in areas like Horbury, Ossett, Stanley, Sandal, Normanton and the city centre, but not necessarily from existing library sites.

‘Satellite’ libraries will be created in the remaining 12 areas, which are currently home to council-run libraries that are not well-used including Altofts, Middlestown, Walton and Kettlethorpe.

But their future depends on organisations like community groups, faith groups or town and parish councils coming forward to take them over.

Coun Dave Dagger, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said the current service was ‘outdated’ and ‘not what residents wanted’.

He said: “We don’t expect people just to take a library on without any help, we will support them.”

Those who take on a library will have access to a £150,000 fund to help them get started.

Coun Dagger said the number of annual visits to libraries had declined by 43 per cent between 1992 and 2009.

The drop in visitors was blamed on the availability of cheaper books at supermarkets and online, and changes in technology like the invention of e-books.

But Karl Grubb, who is leading a campaign to save Outwood Library, disagrees.

He said: “It would be such a blow to lose our local library. So many groups and individuals use it, and we are not going to give it up without a fight. It would be criminal to do nothing.”

The 50-year-old, of Silver Street, Newton Hill, plans to start a Facebook campaign and said the campaign group might even contemplate taking on the library themselves.

Among the libraries under threat are the purpose-built Walton Library, which only opened in 2007.

Lisa Dodd, Wakefield Council’s service director for sport and culture, said no final decisions had been made and that public consultation would determine the way forward.

She said there had been expressions of interest for all of the libraries.

The service has been under review since 2009 and the report containing the latest proposals will be considered by members of Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee on Tuesday.