10 of 32 Libraries in Belfast to Close

The BBC notes that Libraries NI have announced that, following a strategic review and a public consultation, 10 of their 32 branch libraries in the Greater Belfast area are to close.  From the Libraries NI statement

It is with regret that the Libraries NI Board, after scrutinising the findings of the review and the public consultation process, approved closure of the following libraries: Andersonstown, Ballymacarrett, Belvoir Park, Braniel, Dunmurry, Gilnahirk, Ligoniel, Oldpark, Sandy Row and Whitewell. These libraries failed to match the vision requirements whilst also requiring major investment which could not be justified alongside declining usage.

The Strategic Review analysed each library in terms of fitness for purpose, potential to deliver the vision of Libraries NI, its location and sustainability. These four criteria included consideration of issues such as distance to other libraries, maintenance and investment costs required to meet current and future legislative building requirements and the current usage of each library.

Initially, 14 branch libraries were judged potentially unsustainable and a public consultation process was initiated seeking views on the proposed closures of these libraries as well as Libraries NI’s vision for the future and the potential redevelopment of a further 8 libraries.  In response to information obtained during the consultation process and the public feedback received regarding the closures, the Libraries NI Board agreed that 4 of the libraries originally proposed for closure should remain open. The four libraries which will remain open are Ballyhackamore, Cloughfern, Tullycarnet and Woodstock.

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  • Funny how 9 out of the 10 closures are in working class Protestant areas !!

  • dantheman

    Who needs libraries when you have Slugger O’Toole?

  • Who needs libraries when you have churches?
    Or museums.
    Or books.

    Nelson McCausland

    (keep preying)

  • If you want to see the future visit Lisburn library, new state of the art super library on three floors

    Please come on a brief tour with me.

    Entrance on the ground floor to be met by escalator, small display and desk. Desk staffed by non smiler wrapped up in coat. I offer my ticket asking if it is still valid, indeed it is but I have books outstanding from 2006 and I am told in response to my particular query, that I cannot use the Internet until my card is cleared. No attempt is made to persuade me to bring books back but I am given a list of the outstanding items.

    Not sure what the thinking is behind having a member of staff at the front door. Receptionist perhaps? However no evidence of the welcoming public face of NI Libraries. Triage librarian? The lady did check my card on request and told me what I couldn’t do so I guess that particular job did not have to be done upstairs on the first floor. Internal exile? Very possibly Lisburn library’s equivalent of the naughty corner. Deterrent? Another possibility and if the lady was not present I would have proceeded to the first floor without delay. Or just too big a building which has to have a presence on each floor.

    I go to the first floor to be met by non smiler number 2 alongside non smiler no 3. I explain my needs and am offered a PC for fifteen minutes. I ask for an hour at £3.00 and am looked at suspiciously. I provide ID, my library card, and am given a computer. However I cannot open attachments to my e mails or access Word which is why I am at the library. Still some functionality is better than being at home with the builders which is why I’m at the library. Perhaps I should have stayed in the car with the laptop.

    I decide to look round the library and find the books on the next floor up. A large open plan space divided by coralls of shelves with comfy settees and tables and chairs. First impressions are good. Closer examination however shows there’s more space than anything else including a glass window wall and other bare walls. There’s plenty of space on the shelves and often empty shelves. Yet curiously some shelves are jam packed tight. Some books have been rotated ninety degrees and inserted into a shelf with their spine horizontal and thus non readable. Some displays are good, and some higgledy piggledy. Some shelves have obviously not been tidied for a good while unless someone is randomly strewing books around or a staff member prefers the second hand paperback bookshop approach. The stock itself is old and creaking e.g. ancient Haynes car manuals occupying an entire bookcase and audio cassette tapes abound. But in parts the stock is relatively fresh. Are the citizens of Lisburn all on a diet?

    As to the local studies material, specialist collections in the parlance of the consultation document, these were cut away box filed with no attempt to display them to their advantage and in sum a mess. The culture zone appeared largely to be a few Ulster Scots flyers and a few Irish themed books.

    I then go to the children’s library and on the way meet a staff member who smiles in passing. My intention is to look at the stock here too but non smiler no 2 has moved from the first floor reception desk to the desk in the children’s library around the corner and she positively glares at me. I kid you not. I stay long enough to count the people inside this zone, two adults and one child which with the eight people upstairs makes a grand total of eleven people using the two libraries on an early lunch time.

    I don’t recall seeing any exhibitions or any meaningful use of all the space left over not even a bunch of flowers. I did hear “The wheels on the bus” being sung several times so obviously a community space somewhere was being used to good effect. The refreshments in Streat were nice enough but the pleasant assistant told me that the cafe did little trade.

    Overall opinion on Lisburn library

    Modernised and upgraded building? Yes.
    Fit for purpose? No. In fact a building in search of a purpose.
    Is it a new improved library? No. You cannot put the contents of a very small library, as was in Lisburn, into a much bigger building and call it a larger library.
    Is it institutionalised space? Certainly so, bags of it.
    Is it an event filled , highly used institutionalised space? No.
    Is it an eatery? Yes.
    Is it a culture and heritage centre? No, however loosely defined.
    Do other people and organisations do it better while smiling? Yes, libraries across the water, Holywood library, Waterstones in Lisburn, Lisburn museum, community centres, etc etc
    Is it effectively an Internet café surrounded by ageing books with lots of space. Yes

    Conclusion

    Far better therefore to invest more modestly in capital expenditure and put in place a network of smaller new build libraries, further improve access by opening substantially longer hours, invest substantially in information and lifelong learning in whatever medium, and most importantly invest time and energy in staff and volunteers.

    Improved service to me means:

    •Even longer opening hours in smaller libraries – why not 40 hours including Sundays
    •Even longer hours in larger libraries – why not 60 hours including Sundays
    •Vastly improved stock
    •Vastly improved stock levels
    •The use of volunteers (book lovers, information specialists etc) to extend opening hours and support professional staff
    •No charges for inter library loans
    •Staff that are welcoming
    •A bit of pride in the surroundings

    As you might have guessed I owe a great deal to the small branch library at the end of my street when I was young. I wouldn’t have been allowed to catch a bus to a super library.

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    Erm, the Whitewell library is in the middle of a working class Republican area. I know that because I live 20 seconds walk away from it. Andytown library is also in a nationalist area so already your far-fetched conspiracy theory is shot out of the water.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    This is appalling news – part of the British government’s cutbacks. I expect alot more to come for NI.

  • And another thing

    Have you ever seen a library with fewer books in it than Belfast Central library

    Magnificent building , utterly unsuitable for a library however.

  • This would be the same review ongoing now since well before the election of course.

    I expect alot more to come for NI.

    Here’s hoping – and indeed the rest of the UK

  • So according to you 80% of the closures are in Protestant working class areas ??

    Not a theory a fact and to add more weight to it on radio ulster yesterday they’re going to provide wait for it a mobile IRISH library for andytown !!

  • Kevin McIlhennon

    Well if you’re going with a wee conspiracy then how about we look at the allocation of leisure centres in the greater Belfast area. 3 out of 10 are in Nationalist areas and if you include the Valley Leisure Centre then that makes it 3 of 11. Are BCC and NBC sectarian then? No, didn’t think so.

  • Rory Carr

    I hardly think, Articles, that anyone who has kept library books and failed to return since 2006 is in any position to criticise the paucity of books in a public library. Did it not enter your mind that all those empty spaces might just be as a result of you and other selfish defaulters holding on to library stock and thus denying other users access to them?

    While the closure of any library branch is to be deeply regretted I, a regualr (and I trust, responsible) user of my local excellent library, do find it a bit much to hear all this whingeing now from those who have never (or only very occasionally) used the service and doubly galling to hear it from those self-admitted abusers of the service like Articles.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I wonder when is the last time anyone who is commenting on this actually used a library in a serious manner.

  • twilightoftheprods

    Articles,

    Belfast Central Library – has a huge bookstock. Its 98 %closed access via staff, in order to ensure that people who hang onto books for years at time don’t stroll off with the material, some of which is old and rare.

    The books, periodicals, newpaper archives,collections ya da ya da, are housed in a cityblock sized extension to the old victorian frontage.

    There are 3 ways to source the material, each more cunningly cryptic than the last – 1) ask a member of staff 2) use the catalogue 3) use the internet catalogue from anywhere on the planet

    Alternatively, you can just wander round the reading rooms wondering to yourself ‘where are all the books?’

    Word amongst the bookworms is that Nelson is looking to turn it into a ‘national library’. His gift to the ages. Despite the political spin if it raises the profile of the holdings all to the good. Even the tenacious Linen Hall’s local material sometimes seems a pale shadow of what’s in there.

  • For experienced book borrowers my critics seem to have a little trouble in reading and understanding what I said.

    I told the story against myself concerning the overdue books in order to illustrate the failure of the staff member to either reprimand or persuade me to return the books. As it happens I am a responsible user of libraries over a lifetime. I stopped once my children were old enough to attend on their own and they too are responsible users.

    The fact is our local libraries are by and large poor and rationalising them will not turn a poor service into a good service. The recent library consultation literally read as follows. Do you want

    Modernised and upgraded buildings with cafes, meeting rooms, dedicated exhibition space;
    A move towards opening hours for libraries and provision providing extended access during evenings and at weekends, to reflect modern lifestyle needs;
    More staff time available for individual customer support ;
    Improved stock ;
    Improved facilities to support lifelong learning and access to information ;
    Greater access to a range of activities and events to support culture and heritage.

    Yes or no, if yes it will be necessary to close a number of libraries in Greater Belfast which are unable to meet this vision. By the way there will be no job losses – staff will be redeployed within the service.

    As if such a leading question could be answered by a simple yes or no. The designers of the consultation will no doubt be proud of their disingenuousness .

    My original post showed readers what a new super library looked like as evidenced by Lisburn library. A brand new building on three floors with a lobby as the ground floor, very few books, ageing stock and collections, a café, computers and staff who need customer training. In sum the contents of the old small Lisburn library were poured into a large new building with a café, computers and space, lots of empty space. Five years old and already a mausoleum.

    The key point about a public library service is accessibility both in terms of opening hours and location to allow easy access at an early age. Closing down local libraries is not the way forward. The solution is readily to hand but will not be progressed and that is the use of volunteer staff. Most local libraries could be staffed on a voluntary basis by willing library users, and the money saved spent on stock, in turn improving the footfall but this will not happen here albeit it is happening across the water.

    As for Belfast Central holding 98% of its stock in the stacks away from public view. Belfast Central full stop. Beautifully illustrative of the whole shambles.

    A building totally unfit for purpose as a library with just 2% of its stock on display. I must mention that to those friendly staff at Waterstone’s. Have you considered hiding 98% of your stock in the back, that’s what Belfast Central do? Don’t you want to retrieve every book from the back rather than letting customers take them from the shelf to the till. What’s that you say, you would need an army of staff. How about giving over the ground floor to a coffee shop? Say again, oh I see that’s prime retail space and you put the café upstairs and draw people in past lots and lots of books. No, no I don’t need the self help /mental health section but thank you for your suggestion.

    Belfast Central is an architectural treasure on a prime site but it is not a library. Better by far to dispose of this magnificent asset and build a purpose built library on the proceeds. Hiding 98% of the holdings in the stacks is a public disgrace and job creation writ large.

    Finally back to my opening. I stopped using libraries because they no longer met my needs. I want to walk to the library, go on a Sunday or after work, read up to date books across a wide range of subjects, be treated with a smile, etc. Having lived at various times around the UK this is easily the worst public library service I have experienced. Having been a user under my own volition from the age of eight I stopped going regularly. For a book lover, not having a decent public library, is an incredible gap in one’s life. Oh and by the way I did return the outstanding books.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Articles

    Poor old central library. I think it would love to have an army of staff, given its long opening hours. I’ve yet to see a library that looked overstaffed. Well, maybe a couple in England.

    I am 100% in favour of most of the stock being behind the scenes. How could they possibly keep order amongst hundreds of thousands or millions of items with ordinary punters wondering around puttings back in the wrong place, or just shuffling off with them? I’d rather wait 5 minutes than have the book nicked or so badly misplaced that it isnt found for weeks, or years. There is a big difference between a reference library and something out in a wee branch somewhere. What they are doing looks like decent practice, if we compare it with across the water. Same story with the national library of Ireland.

  • The above can only have been written by a Belfast central librarian. Utterly utterly unbelievable.

    Have you ever seen a reference library elsewhere? They have controls such as bag searches, electronic tags etc

    putting books in the wrong place, ordinary people looking at books aaaaaaargggghhhhhhhhhh

    Utterly utterly unbelievable.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Articles

    Tut tut. Cross my heart, I’m not any sort of librarian. Or employee of a library. But I have seen behind the front end of central library when they accessed the newspaper library that way. No way you could let ordinary peeps in behind there. Too big a space, too many books. Maze of shelves.

    And there are real problems about ‘policing’ a public space like that. I’ve seen some really creepy,oddball behaviour from people going in to public libraries.

    Linen hall is a fraction of the size, and has a fair amount on display, but even then keeps most material closed access to prevent theft and general disorder.

    I know reference libraries well. And archives. Not a lot are open access at all. The London Library mostly is but its £400 quid a year.

    Maybe whats confusing you are university libraries. They have lots of people doing the shelving, and are resourced in a way that public libraries will never be – and of course they are not generally open to the public. In fact if students hang on to the books the fees are punitive, and can result in suspension. They have their users by the proverbials.

    You want proper stock and open access, you’ve gotta pay through the nose. You do it on the cheap, you get as you point out- Lisburn library. I’d rather have a good stock of material, well looked after, than some new build with overpriced cappucinos. And I don’t give an eff whether the staff smile or not, as long as they have a clue in supplying assistance.

    As for branch libraries, I’d say keep as many as you can -across as great a spread of Greater Belfast as possible. particularly to facilitate access from kids and old people; and people without ready acess to transport. And avoid white elephant new builds. You’d probably agree with me on that.

  • Second thoughts.

    Entirely believable. A reference library run for the benefit of librarians. Only in Belfast.

    I hear a bee.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    A library with so many books can only be for the benefit of people who use libraries a lot like me. Its the library staff who have to get up off their backsides and get all this material, even when it isnt there cos somebody has been hanging on to it for several years.

    If it doesn’t have the stock, like Lisburn library, thats when its run for the benefit of library staff. Nobody gives a monkeys for the future, and has no proper collecting policy.

    If your telling me all our second city of Lisburn has to culturally display is Haynes catalogues – – why not let people stroll about? Get down to Belfast and start taking advantage of the libraries merger. Before NI libraries close another local studies department like in Ballynahinch.

  • Jason

    Some of the libraries such as the Braniel and Gilnahirk were deliberately run down over the past 8 years and suffered death by a thousand cuts. Not everybody (including the many pensioners in that area) can get into the City centre. Also the libraries served as an adhoc community centre with activities for children and young mothers.

  • As opposed to a jokey one?

  • Evil Heat

    The thing I find staggering and ridiculous is the fact that Belfast has 32 libraries. It just proves the point that the residents of Belfast are spoiled rotten when they expect a library on every street corner.

    The way some of them talk you would think it was a huge metropolis like London or New York. Belfast has had it good for too long, often to the detriment of other towns and cities in the North of Ireland.

    Hopefully with the closure of these 10 libraries it will mean more funds to improve the libraries in the whole of the North not just Belfast.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Evil Heat

    Nothing to do with being spoiled rotten – Greater Belfast had 32 libraries -that includes the old BELB, South Eastern Boards etc.

    Some loss is inevitable but this seems to harm those in estates on the outskirts of Belfast.

    The initial proposals for closure were extremely poorly thought out. They even wished to close Ballyhackamore which had the highest usage of branch libraries. I don’t have a great deal of faith in their strategic planning. They seem to want to set children and old people to commuting for their books. These cuts would be ok for car owning families of the lower middle classes and up (like me); but don’t ease access for anybody else below that level.

    Given the sectarianisation of territory in Belfast that perhaps further limits your choices.

    And Jason is right I think they probably did run down several libraries with an eye to closure.

  • Citybus

    To be fair a ‘local studies department’ has no business being in a place that can’t be got to by public transport like Ballynahinch. Evil Heat, it is of course true that library provision outside Belfast is appalling- but do you really think the closure of Belfast branches will result in them opening more elsewhere? And given how sprawled out Belfast is the 32 branches are spread out very thinly. If anything Belfast and the rest of country should be building many more libraries. lets face it there is a significant minority who feel they aren’t up to the challenge of reading anything more intense than Facebook or a takeaway menu. By closing down libraries it is clear the government is perfectly comfortable with that.

    And I’d also echo Articles concerns about Lisburn’s new library. Havent been there myself but there are so many out there that could fit way more books in them than they have. They don’t even have to be new books, but I would suggest Haynes manuals of Ford Capris should be archived in the Central Library for future generations to marvel over. Unfortunately the New Labour nonsense of turning libraries into free internet cafes has taken it’s tolls on the book stock.

  • Hello Twilight

    I am very familiar with the Linen Hall library. It doesn’t keep most of its material out of sight.
    I am very familiar also with reference libraries. Most are open to the public.

    Switching tack,I accept you are not an employee of a library but perhaps you are part of the NI library authority.

    A quick look at the numbers suggests that the £31million authority budget could be better spent by despatching 12 average price books (Tesco prices) to every household in BT land. That’s right 12 new books for every household every year.

    Makes you think. Every school, every community, would have an up to date library overnight.

  • lamhdearg

    My childhood years where punctuated with visits to one that shall close but on the bright side the one i use now is to stay open (for now) so i am allright jack.

  • lamhdearg

    Anyone know what they intend to do with the buildings?.

  • Hello lamhdearg

    One option is of course put some books into them and turn them into libraries.

  • medillen

    Nelson McCausland and Edwin Poots are examples of when the lunatics take over the asylum,

  • lamhdearg

    Carnegie payed for the building of oldpark (i think), Maybe bill gates will step in, This closing is sad but do we want to pay for things (not just libraries) that people in the main dont use.

  • eeZbub

    “Funny how 9 out of the 10 closures are in working class Protestant areas !!”

    I wonder are you including Ligoniel among those so-called working class Protestant areas, if so, you are wrong. Ligoniel Library, while situated in a so-called Protestant area (an interface area really), served everyone in Ligoniel.

    I went from the local RC primary to that library to get my first book, ‘Florence and the magic roundabout’, if I remember correctly. I spent many many hours in the Ligoniel library along with lots of people of whatever background and it helped instill the love of books that I still have forty years later.

    What is particularly sad about the closure of Ligoniel Library is that it serves a largely working class community and these are usually the people who can least afford and are often least inclined to buy books for their kids ( I can’t really comment on the demographics of the other libraries’ customers)

    It’s just baffling.
    And sad.

  • twilightoftheprods

    Hello Articles

    You are taking me to the fair…12 new books for every household….are you perhaps Dan Brown or J K Rowling in disguise? What about more obscure or less familiar works of history, science,literature – who will buy those? What if I want to read more than 12 books a year that your literary GOSPLAN send me? Perhaps they should just go to the wall. By Bye history of civilisation.

    That has at least given me a laugh. Know you weren’t being serious, but still.

    Nope – not any connection with any library authority on the planet. I just make use of libraries. I hold the NI libraries authority in low esteem.

    Linen Hall – went on an open day tour and asked a librarian. Majority of the local bookstock is kept closed access. All of periodicals too. As are bound newspapers/archives. Also material is kept off site in stores. Most of the general reference stuff is open access but its only about the size of a branch library. Don’t take my word for it, ask them.

    If you are very familiar with reference libraries you’d know that the bulk of stock is closed access, and is fetched for you. So I’m curious – please name one or two reference libraries that are open access in the manner you describe, because I’d like to visit them. If they have a particular system operating that allows public roaming around hundreds of thousands of items it might be worth emulating.

  • Hello Twilightoftheprods

    Bye bye history of civilisation? It must be a merciful relief waking up every morning in your household, but in the wee small hours when the doubts re-surface, it must be a nightmare. We’re doomed, aye, we’re doomed, Janet.

    But setting aside apocalyptic user names , forecasts of doom and a bureaucratic propensity for only seeing the downside, perhaps I wasn’t joking. What’s wrong with a £40 per annum direct payment/book voucher to every household in BTland. As of now only 11% of the £32 million granted to the library authority is spent on books. I can see lots of problems too but and this is an important but, I can see lots of opportunities also.

    As to the Linen Hall library and reference libraries, I concede . I have a layman’s definition of reference libraries which doesn’t include specialist collections, archives, bequests etc which I know are treated differently. I had in mind a comprehensive range of reference books available to hand without the intervention of a librarian. Incidentally I can highly recommend the Linen Hall for a function, a meeting in the boardroom, and a guided tour thrown in. Magnificent.

    By the way given your obvious knowledge of the library service ( from whatever source) how many people roughly are employed in it and why did so many (85) express an interest in voluntary early retirement.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Don’t forget now, chin up

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Articles

    I’ll assume my apocalyptic disposition as being the most appropriate for circumstances. Or as a snide curl of my lip at millenial doom mongering. Delete as applicable.

    No idea how many people are in the library service. Over the years there seems to be a lot fewer staff about for sure – but that could be because of longer opening hours; and I’m pretty sure footfall and usage has fallen which might mean a natural drop off in staff. Wikipedia, eh? The previous posters comments about facebook and takeaway menus is spot on.

    85 looking voluntary redundancy? In a recession? Sounds to me like an indicator that its a morale free zone, even if the management are re-structuring. So I think in my twilight years I might forget about a wee job in there. That probably answers your question why none of the f*ckers are smiling in Lisburn library.

    I heard that the big cheese at NI Libraries gets £100K. (or 2500 household tesco bought libraries in your plan)Fraid thats the only stats I can remember. I did some research for my feedback form in the campaign to get the library closures re-thunk, but the only thing that sticks in my mind is that they were planning to close some of the busier libraries. Now thats 100K well spent.

  • lamhdearg

    The best place on earth 1973-1985

  • Hello twilight

    No probs.

    I take it you mean that the f*ckers in Lisburn library didn’t get voluntary early retirement. You could be right.

    I still hear a bee and will return.

    Don’t forget we’re on the eve of destruction

  • I am a librarian – but am not employed by Libraries NI.

    I find all this very interesting.

    Articles, you say above that:

    “The key point about a public library service is accessibility both in terms of opening hours and location to allow easy access at an early age. Closing down local libraries is not the way forward.The solution is readily to hand but will not be progressed and that is the use of volunteer staff. Most local libraries could be staffed on a voluntary basis by willing library users, and the money saved spent on stock, in turn improving the footfall but this will not happen here albeit it is happening across the water.”

    I absolutely agree about accessibility, especially as it relates to opening hours.

    But do you really think opening libraries up to volunteers will solve things? I mean, would you do it? This is non rhetorical by the way, I’m actually serious and interested.

  • Hello Field Vole

    Yes I would be happy to commit a few hours a week as a volunteer at my local library. I would be happy to donate say ten modern books which people would want to read eg the Donna Leon crime series. I would be happy to sponsor a magazine subscription etc.

    Are such intiatives likely to be promoted under the current regime; there will be many others of similar mind? It is unlikely. Having said that my visits to libraries are now rare so i could be wrong.

    I daresay I could donate the books and sponsor the magazine now if I wished but, unrelatedly and yet relatedly, my branch library doesn’t open when I want it to be open. Why shoud l prop up, even in a miniscule way, a public service that is not run for the benefit of its customers.

    There again I’m not too sure the general public is in love with books here.There are few bookshops, fewer second hand bookshops and a guy at a local market once told me that a bookstall was a guaranteed no no. Many had tried and none had succeeded.

    Oops have to go, byee

  • Hi Articles,

    You have had some bad experiences of customer service in public libraries. It’s true there are some terrible examples of librarians out there. I would certainly agree that public libraries are in a bad state – not just locally, but everywhere. Libraries need shaken up. Here’s an interesting perspective on “Why Closing More Public Libraries Might Be The Best Thing (…Right Now)” http://bit.ly/dp4fT4

    However, libraries are still probably the best resource in our communities for equality of access to informal learning and employment. I think these services should carry a price tag.

    You ask “are such [volunteering] initiatives likely to be promoted under the current regime [in local libraries]” and suggest that this is unlikely. I wouldn’t be so sure. Yesterday KPMG issued a (poorly researched and flippant) report about public sector savings and in one section argues that library staff should be replaced with volunteers http://rd.kpmg.co.uk/mediareleases/21654.htm (discussion of libraries on pg 19).

    Qualified librarians should not be replaced by volunteers. Clearly, I have a vested interest when I argue this, but I’m confident I’d think this way anyway. If you’re talking about shelving and fetching books and issuing books at the desk – the role usually performed by a paid Library Assistant – there’s no doubt a volunteer could do this. But I know that I have skills that volunteers could not provide.

    Re the reference library question, it would be mad to have an open access reference library – you’d quickly realise this if it was implemented!

    I’m glad these questions are being discussed.

  • Just to qualify what i said about reference libraries… it very much depends on volume of stock, obviously, but having all of Central’s stock on open access shelves, for example, would be a bad idea.

  • readingowl

    I am a librarian employed by ni-libraries – and know the problems they have. It is a wildly overmanaged organisation, with running costs for things like Payroll and similar that make it non-viable. Libraries should be run by the councils – they run them in GB and the RoI. NI-libraries cover the whole province and have no committment to areas – thus Belfast is treated as ‘the same’ as rural areas. If Belfat City Council ran their part of the service it would be ‘joined up’ with things like leisures services and its managment costs would be at least partly covered by existing council staff. And it would be democraticaly accountable through elected representative. Get rid of ni-libraries!