Authors welcome 'reprieve' for Liverpool libraries

Authors welcome 'reprieve' for Liverpool libraries

Community groups are set to take over the running of at least seven of the 11 libraries earmarked for closure in Liverpool.

Campaigners who have fought to keep the libraries open – including authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons – have welcomed the news, but urged that more details on the plans need to be made available.

The city's mayor Joe Anderson released a statement this morning (10th November) announcing that "all libraries will be saved", saying: "I can confirm today that none of our libraries will close".

However, this will only be made possible after community organisations and voluntary groups approached the council with proposals to form new partnerships with the council in order to keep them open.

In the statement, Anderson said: "The on-going consultation about the future of the library service with local people, organisations and community groups has shown how many people share our passion for our libraries. It has also clearly shown that they are willing to get involved to help keep them running and I would like to thank them and commend them for that.

"So far, viable proposals have been received for seven of the eleven libraries and we are continuing to plan the future of the remainder. There may have to be changes to the way these libraries are run, with changed opening hours for example, but the proposals are an exciting mixture of ideas with local community organisations and voluntary groups joining up to form new partnerships with Liverpool City Council."

He added that no final agreements had been made, but that more details would be announced soon.

Author Cathy Cassidy, who attended a rally in Liverpool on Saturday protesting against the cuts, said the news was "a huge relief". She said: "I hadn't allowed myself to believe that we could see news like this. For weeks we've been told that nothing could be done, and that they would have to close – to suddenly hear that they can stay open is wonderful news."

She added: "This is a great starting point, but we want to see more details about the plans for the libraries. We want to work together with the mayor on this. He has resisted the campaigning and branded it as political, when really it has come from ordinary people in Liverpool who just want to keep their libraries open. I'd like to think the campaign has influenced him, but if he wants to take the credit for saving them, I don't mind – as long as they are saved."

Fellow author Alan Gibbons said: "I think it is a very significant moment. That the 11 libraries are going to keep their doors open is fantastic. We now have to look at the detail. We do not want to see 'community libraries' with little support from professional librarians. A hollowed-out service with reduced opening hours and few librarians would not be a strong library network. Having said that, I am delighted that Mayor Anderson has proved to be responsive to the voice of the people of Liverpool. A great day."

The Liverpool Echo dubbed the move "a reprieve" for the city's libraries, and said the move followed the council identifying £1.6m in savings, with £600,000 left to find.

Authors, celebrities and library users have campaigned against the planned closures, agreed by the council in August this year.

In October, Liverpudlians including David Morrisey and Jimmy McGovern signed a petition against the cuts, alongside Malorie Blackman, Caitlin Moran and Barbara Taylor Bradford.