A 'group'* on Facebook has been formed out of ex-librarians and other culture workers to protest cutbacks and closures affecting Highland Libraries. Their profile gets quickly to the point:
The rural libraries which could face closure are: Bettyhill; Knoydart; Achiltibuie; Lochcarron; Cromarty; Golspie; Lairg; Broadford; Mallaig; Bonar Bridge; Muir of Ord; Plockton; Caol; Invergordon; Helmsdale; Ardersier and Beauly. Other libraries would suffer reduced hours. Also under fire is the Bookstart programme, which introduces literacy to young children.
Highland Libraries have more than 1 million visitors every year, they loan 1.3 million items and provide more than 90,000 hours of free Internet access. Your council wants to reduce that service by more than half for a saving of less than £200,000
The council is seeking the public's views on the following ideas:
- Closing up to 17 small local libraries (saving £185,000).
- Closing one major urban library (saving £87,000).
- Reducing library opening hours by 10 per cent (saving £71,000).
- Removing seven school librarian posts (saving £97,000).
- Ceasing Bookstart, the early years library service for young children (saving £44,700).
These Highland Council cuts are getting incredibly out of hand, I wish they'd just cut back spending on the things that don't form a vital part of daily life. For some examples: Streetscape; winter festivals; fireworks; Gaidhlig translations**; billboards and magazine ads; various underperforming; overpaid Council staff. None of that is necessary.
But when it comes to checking out expensive reference books, or light reads, comics and DVDs, getting internet access when your own is broken, taking kids out for the day or having some time to yourself - the libraries and pools are a vital and well used part.
You have to wonder what they'll be cutting next.
* Being pedantic, it's actually a Facebook user, not a Facebook group. I might speak to them about creating an actual group if they need assistance with that.
** Suas leis a'Ghaidhlig! I (clumsily) speak and support it, don't get me wrong, but it takes lesser priority than community facilities. Money alone won't save it.