THE POSSIBILITY of closing seven of Conwy’s libraries has been met with disappointment by town and county councillors.
After a full cabinet meeting in mid-December, Conwy County Borough Council decided to hold a public consultation on their library service, with an earlier report recommending that consultation ought to take place on the option to keep open libraries at Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Llanrwst, Abergele, and building a fifth “strategic library” as a new public facility.
Libraries at Deganwy, Penrhyn Bay, Penmaenmawr, Llanfairfechan, Llandudno Junction, Kinmel Bay and Cerrigydrudion could all face closure under the recommended options.
A second option would keep Cerrigydrudion and Penmaenmawr open as satellite facilities.
The results of the consultation will be considered by a meeting of the Communities and Customers Overview committee with the Scrutiny committee, with community and equality impact assessments held prior to further consideration of the closures by Cabinet.
Cllr Jack Finch, who represents Penrhyn ward on Llandudno Town Council, said that closure to the Penrhyn Bay library would have a great impact on the village’s elderly population.
He said “A lot of us are pensioners, and if it was closed, old people would really suffer as a lot of us do a lot of reading - more than most people think!
“And I wouldn’t say the library was underused. I’ve never gone in and been the only person there. And I couldn’t praise the staff enough - they’re brilliant, and if you’re disabled like myself, they’ll bend over backwards to help you.”
Cllr Jason Weyman, who represents Deganwy on the council, regretted that public use of the library in his ward had lessened.
He said “Even though it was threatened three years ago, unfortunately the usage is the lowest out of the libraries we have.”
He added that while the proposed “strategic library” would have potential, the public needed further information to reassure them it could fill the gap left by the closures.
“The new strategic library would have to be very good. But we haven’t seen any plans for the new library, and my view is that it should be more than just a library.”
The article follows a report to Cabinet in which the agreement was made to go out to consultation on options to close 7 libraries. The options are from ideal one option is to close 7 libraries the other is to close 5 libraries.
After the subject being discussed by Scrutiny and a Task & Finish group (non of which I have been part of), I have to say that the options are extremely disappointing and lack any different ways of thinking (outside the box!). There is discussion with regard to expanding the Home Delivery service, or more use of the Mobile Library service.
As for Deganwy Library, the writing has been on the wall for sometime. The report does not make good reading and shows that Deganwy is the worst performing Library in terms of visitor numbers and book lending. The hours of opening will be reduced later this month, once Llandudno Library is reopened following the refurbishment.
Deganwy will then only be open 1 afternoon and 1 morning a week. This is a great shame for the people who do use the service. I was hoping that when the options for closing Deganwy came out, that we would have a firm proposal on the "new" strategic library. The is very limited information in the document about where this building will be or what it will contain. It also no has hinted that the facility may only be an "enhancement" of either Conwy or Llandudno Junction.
I want to make sure that Deganwy remains open until the alternative has been built and is available for the Deganwy Library users. How long I can argue for this will be an issue, but I will continue the fight. I made a statement to this affect when the Cabinet discussed the report.
I also felt that there was no substantive evidence of discussions with other departments about a new building for the Strategic Library. With discussions with regard to School Modernisation that there could be option here for the Junction.
The Conwy Civic Hall is also due for closure, although the user group is coming up with some business options to keep the Hall open. But with the lockout agreement with a "special purchaser" still having a few months to go, it will be interesting to see what happens. The lockout agreement I understand would take precedence if they come up with a "market value" offer and viable solution for the site.
So why could the new strategic library not include other public services (either Council or other bodies) and include community use rooms and an auditorium such as that in the current Civic Hall. As for funding I'm sure if such a site could tick a few boxes across various important sectors, they should be both WAG and European funding. We have just done it for Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay, so why not in the Junction or Conwy.
The other idea I have had which may be alternative to the other towns/villages due for closure. Rather than using the Mobile Library using the dedicated bus. Why not create a Visiting Library Service. My idea would be that using equipment and shelving on wheels, that a visiting library could be set up once a week in a local community centre. This would give a valuable use for community centres or village/church halls around the county. Places like Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, and Penryhn Bay if were decided for closure could have a facility that would still appear in the towns on a regular basis. With modern technology, this could include computer access as well as the conventional library services.
Another option I'm not sure if has been discussed is whether external organisations have been consultaed in taking over a local Library. And whether it was possible for a lease of the building to be transferred and the library to be run on a franchise type model.