Sunderland loses 11 libraries since 2010, the BBC reports

Picture by: Ryan Phillips / PA Archive/Press Association Images.
Picture by: Ryan Phillips / PA Archive/Press Association Images.

As many as 11 two libraries/mobile libraries have been closed in Sunderland since 2010, according to the BBC.

There are now 75 paid staff members and 53 volunteers, compared to the 19 unpaid volunteers in 2010 .

Sunderland City Council’s Head of Education, Attainment and Lifelong Learning, Beverley Scanlon, said: “While these figures might reflect the closure of actual buildings, they do not accurately reflect the change in the way services are now delivered from a wider range of community based settings.

“The library buildings decommissioned in 2013 and turned over to other uses only accounted for 12 per cent of library usage.

“At that time we also introduced a community engagement team to encourage people to access services in different ways.”

Ms Scanlon added: “Libraries in Sunderland offer access to over quarter of a million books, free internet access, book clubs, children’s story-times and courses, not to mention a host of events for people of all ages.

“Over the last two years we’ve done a lot of work to expand our library services into the heart of communities, with the result that people in Sunderland can now borrow books from almost four times as many places as before.

“We’re now taking library services into more of the places people go instead of expecting them to come to us, whether that’s their local supermarket, nearest school, or local community centre.

“We’ve got more people borrowing more books, from more venues and we’re especially pleased that we’ve had about five times as many children taking part in activities like story-telling and meet the author sessions as last year which is really important in terms of helping children boosting their literacy.”

But unlike Sunderland, there have been only two libraries/mobile libraries closed in Newcastle since 2010. There were 290 paid staff in libraries in 2010, compared to 175 now.

As well as this, the council had no unpaid volunteers in 2010 and has no volunteers today.

This comes as the survey revealed that in total 343 libraries have closed in Britain over the past six years.

This has caused the loss of almost 8,000 jobs, according to the BBC’s analysis.

The figures, obtained by the BBC English Regions data journalism team, showed that another 111 closures are planned this year.

A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups and run by an army of volunteers, while 50 have been handed to external organisations.

The move, by councils across the UK, to shut their reading rooms in effort to make deep savings has caused authors to speak up.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons warned the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”.

Gibbons, who wrote Shadow Of The Minotaur, told the BBC: “Opening hours are slashed, book stocks reduced.

“Volunteers are no longer people who supplement full time staff but their replacements. This constitutes the hollowing out of the service. We are in dangerous territory.”

Librarian Ian Anstice, who runs the Public Libraries News website, said the cuts were “without precedent”.

Mr Anstice said: “Councils learnt early on how unpopular simply closing libraries is, so they have had to cut the vital service in other, less obvious ways.

“It can come across in many forms – reduced opening hours, reduced book fund, reduced maintenance and reduced staffing.

“In all its incarnations, it is harmful to the service, creating the risk that once-loyal users of libraries will come away disappointed and stop using them.

“Our public library system used to be envy of the world. Now it is used as a cautionary tale that librarians use worldwide to scare their colleagues.”

A spokesman for the Department for Media, Culture and Sport said: “Libraries are cornerstones of their communities and are part of the fabric of our society, so it’s vital they continue to innovate in order to meet the changing demands of those they serve.

“[The] Government is helping libraries to modernise by funding a wifi roll-out across England that has benefited more than 1,000 libraries and increasing access to digital services and e-lending.”

If you want to check how many libraries have closed in your area you can do so here.

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