Campaigners oppose Carnegie sell-off

Campaigners oppose Carnegie sell-off

Library campaigners in Sheffield are urging the city council to put on hold plans to sell a Carnegie library to a company which wants to place a restaurant and coffee shop in the building.

The Walkley Carnegie Library was one of 15 of the city's 28 libraries that was passed over to volunteer control earlier this year, with volunteers taking on the running of the building.

Now, the council is planning to sell the Grade II listed building to Forum Café Bars Ltd. Under the current plans, volunteers would then lease space in the building to continue running a library service alongside the coffee shop and restaurant.

Kane Yeardley, the owner of Forum Café Bars, told the Sheffield Telegraph that a development would see £100,000 spent on restoring the building, with volunteers able to keep 90% of the library space. 

He said: "Currently library operating costs and bills have been running at around £20,000 a year and we will be taking on that responsibility. If we didn’t get involved with the Walkley site now there is a possibility that the building could fall into disrepair, the volunteers could find it difficult to keep functioning and we could see the building closed and sold."

Yeardley added: "I have seen this model work in Sweden, where a library has a really good food and cafe offer and they are very busy. They have coffee mornings for mums, kids go after school to study and families join for dinner - we would like to replicate that in Walkley."

However, campaigners have warned that plans have been rushed through without proper public discussion, and expressed concern about the loss of a public asset to private hands.

A petition started on campaign site 38 Degrees said: "The building was gifted by Carnegie to serve the people of Walkley. Once it is sold to a private company it will never again be a public resource - there is no going back. This community resource will be lost forever. The proposed arrangements have been described as a partnership but wider community voice has been removed. Some local people have voiced their opposition but have been ignored. There has been little or no consultation, little or no information has been made available to the wider community and specific questions about the sale process have not been answered."

The petition has so far attracted 1,690 signatures.

Earlier this month it was announced that the Friends of Kensal Rise Library would be reopening a community-run library in the building, after it was sold to developers to turn into flats.