WHITEFIELD Library is set to close under council plans to save cash.

Prestwich Library will be saved as Bury Council prepares to lose at least 10 of its 14 libraries.

In the worst-case scenario the proposals could potentially see 11 of the facilities shut down, as major changes are made to the borough’s library services.

Residents have expressed their outrage over the plans to shut Whitefield Library and Adult Learning Centre, which many claim is a “lifeline” for some of the town’s most vulnerable people.

Teacher Sarah Hough, aged 44, from Whitefield, said: “If we lose the library then we’re cutting vulnerable people off. It’s an appalling tragedy.

“The hearing loss unit here is a major support for people and then there’s groups and classes here as well.

“I regularly hear the staff telling people classes are fully-booked so surely that illustrates how well used Whitefield Library is.

“If it’s is closed then it will have a knock-on effect on social care because it’s a lifeline for a lot of people.

“If they can’t come here anymore then there’s a worry people will become depressed and isolated.”

More than 4,000 people took part in the first public consultation on the future of Bury libraries.

Bury’s cabinet tabled proposals last night and will now hold another public consultation, and then make a final decision at a meeting April.

The two options cabinet considered are to save Bury Library, plus the archives, Ramsbottom and Prestwich libraries, or to retain Bury and the archives, Ramsbottom, Prestwich and Radcliffe.

Shirley Ellis, aged 82, from Higher Lane, Whitefield, said: “I’ve got eight grandchildren who have all grown up now but I’ve brought them all here as children.

“It’s awful to think that other children will miss out on this service.

“I’ve been coming for at least 60 years and visit once a fortnight to take out about five books at a time.

“I really hope the council re-think the effect the closure will have on local people.”

Management consultant Saad Sarwar, aged 40, of Church Lane, Whitefield, said: “It’s so disappointing to think we are losing our library.

“My children are eight and 10 and my 10-year-old son comes here on his own to read, it gives him some independence in a safe environment.

“My daughter is always saying she can’t wait to turn 10 to be able to come here on her own, but that won’t happen if it’s closed. 

“It’s such a shame that they could shut something which serves so many people in our community.”

Cllr Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for strategic housing and support services, said: “We have had to look at every aspect of the service to make sure that we can make the savings that are necessary while still meeting our legal duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service.

“The current library service is not sustainable. Staff levels have reduced by 30 per cent since the last review, meaning that libraries cannot fulfil their opening hours and are sometimes closed at short notice.

“In addition, the number of active members is reducing, and there are not enough staff to grow the service, develop new members or do face-to-face community work

“For all these reasons the future of the library service in its current format is a growing concern.”

The aim is to provide at least one main library building in the north, central and southern parts of the borough.

Under both options, 98 per cent of Bury residents would be within 30 minutes’ reach of a library.

Bury Lib Dem leader Cllr Tim Pickstone raised concerns over the closures effect on some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents.

He said: “The council has been consulting on the future of libraries for months now, but at no stage was such a wholesale closure of so many libraries mentioned.

“We’re concerned that moving to just three or four libraries will hurt the most vulnerable in our community, the loneliest and the least able to travel. The council needs to think again.”

Cllr Walmsley said the council was keen to work with residents to explore whether buildings could be kept open for community use.

This may include community management of some buildings to include a library service and community activities/meeting place; management by other agencies, e.g. nurseries and playgroups; or establishment of a charitable trust to which some libraries are transferred.

Mother-of-three Tina Adams says she regularly uses the library to study, socialise and bring her children.

The court interpreter, from Ross Avenue, Whitefield, said: “From my children’s perspective they love coming here and would be gutted to see it closed.

“There are a lot of people who use the PCs who might not have them at home. They use them to do job searches and it’s an extremely popular and useful service.

“It’s so close to home for me we can walk here and if I had to use Prestwich Library then I just don’t think I’d go so often.

“It’s more of a library with just books, whereas Whitefield has a children’s room and the quiet area at the computers, so I can’t understand why they are closing it.”

Bury Conservative leader Cllr Iain Gartside added: “I’m quite shocked by the proposals.

“As Tottington Library is in my ward, I’m really disappointed to see that no consultation will be held over whether to close it or not.

“It’s the only council building in the whole township, where people go to connect with the council, pay their bills and attend our police pact meeting.”

Ian Hunsley, of Anfield Close, Unsworth, said: “Being a member of Unsworth Library I am amazed it is down for closure.

“Take for example the local primary school who come in during the day and then come back after school to do their homework — these are children aged nine to 11 years old and cannot be expected to go elsewhere on public transport.

“Secondly there are the OAPs who enjoy the social side of meeting with people instead of being stuck at home. For them to go elsewhere would entail using an hourly bus service and a degree of walking. 

“Thirdly there are the clubs which meet here-reading groups, knitter and natters, and two mother and child sessions.

“It is blatantly obvious that if this library closes many people would stop using libraries or use them elsewhere with a degree of risk which we all want to avoid.

“We are all devastated that one of our main pleasures, especially the elderly, are going to suffer greatly from this plan.”

The 14 libraries in Bury include:
Ainsworth Library
Brandlesholme Community Centre and Library
Bury Library
Castle Leisure Centre Library
Coronation Road Community Centre and Library
Dumers Lane Community Centre and Library
Moorside Community Centre and Library
Prestwich Library and Adult Learning Centre
Radcliffe Library
Ramsbottom Library and Adult Learning Centre
Topping Fold Community Centre and Library
Tottington Library
Unsworth Library
Whitefield Library and Adult Learning Centre

Visit tinyurl.com/burylibraryproposals to see the council’s library service proposal reports.