THE closure of libraries in Belfast will be a disaster for communities in deprived areas of the city, according to Alliance’s East Belfast Assembly member, Councillor Naomi Long.
Cllr Long, who is Alliance’s Education spokesperson, stated:
“Libraries in places like Ballymacarrett, which is closing and serves The Mount, Ballymacarrett and Island wards, serve very deprived areas. This is the library where I learned to love books and value libraries, and I know its closure would be a disaster for the local community.
“Ballyhackamore’s relatively new and well-used library is under threat of closure. I know this library serves many elderly people and young mums who wouldn’t be able to travel easily to another. Without it, they won’t just be losing access to literature, but also to a social network that has been built up over years.
“Closing libraries in deprived areas which already have low educational attainment is taking away the one resource that could help children develop an interest in reading. Outside of a classroom, the library is the most important educational facility for young people.
“Day in, day out, we hear from the Government about the importance of targeting social need, improving literacy and investing early in education. Yet clearly there is no joined-up thinking if libraries are closing.
“If education budget cuts mean schools won’t be able to buy books and libraries are being closed in the same areas, where are children and young people going to access new books?
“I fail to see how closing libraries in communities already suffering disadvantage would pass any equality impact assessment, and I will oppose any plans to close facilities that are of such importance to readers in East Belfast.”