Alliance East Belfast MP, Naomi Long, and Castlereagh Central Councillors, Michael Long and Carole Howard, have expressed their concern at proposals from Libraries NI to reduce the opening hours at Cregagh Library by a quarter, from 40 to 30 hours per week. They have stated that, following on from the Stage 1 review, during which 3 of the 7 Libraries in Castlereagh were closed, this will further reduce service availability for local people.
Naomi Long MP said, “We understand the pressure which Libraries NI faces with respect to their budget; however, they have in their documentation identified that libraries affected significantly by the Stage 1 strategic review of provision, because they are close to libraries that have been closed, should only have their opening hours reviewed again in September 2012; however, Cregagh Library has not been afforded this protection, despite the fact that during public meetings on the Stage 1 Consultation, library users in Braniel and Gilnahirk, both of which ultimately closed, were told they should use Cregagh Library as an alternative.
Cllr Michael Long said, “We intend to challenge this proposal, which is a further significant blow to library services in the Borough. Our experience in Braniel, Gilnahirk and Belvoir is that in all three cases significant reductions in hours, far from stabilising the situation, in the end led to the closure of those libraries.”
Cllr Carole Howard added, “Libraries provide a very valuable service in the local community but to do this they need to be accessible. We want to see a proper plan for investment and support of these services and their social, educational and cultural value properly recognised by Government. We will be seeking a meeting with the Chief Executive of Libraries NI to raise our concerns and would encourage people to respond to the consultation.”