Let’s Talk Libraries: what a library really means

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Following the announcement by Newcastle City Council that they propose to shut a number of libraries and cut their book buying budget, we commissioned five North East writers to visit libraries facing closure.

The writers, (Ann Cleeves, Mari Hannah, Michael Chaplin, David Almond and Fiona Evans) spent time speaking to staff and those using the libraries to see what they got out of the experience. They also asked their opinions on the cuts.

The writers have captured the feel, heart and uses of local libraries and profiled the people who use them. Many of the people who would lose out are the most vulnerable in society and the people the writers spoke to, both staff and customers, all expressed their sheer incomprehension at the library no longer being available. Contrary to the council’s hope that those users would travel to another library if their local one is closed, very few felt able to do so, for a host of reasons from the financial to lack of mobility.

We’ll be publishing the five articles on this blog. We’ve published Ann Cleeves’ piece on Cruddas Park library already, in advance of her speaking at the Save Newcastle Libraries rally on Wednesday 9 January at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle.

The rest will be published once a day from Monday 14 January, in this order:

Monday 14 January: David Almond visits Dinnington Library
Tuesday 15 January: Fiona Evans visits Fenham Library
Wednesday 16 January: Mari Hannah visits Denton Burn Library
Thursday 17 January: Michael Chaplin visits Jesmond Library

Our hope is that that these pieces will show the council the value of our libraries, and encourange them to re-think their proposals.

If the council goes ahead with the closures, these five pieces will have captured a moment in history, leaving a legacy and celebrating a time when we valued reading, education and accessibility to knowledge for all.