It comes with a heavy heart that I have to confirm that today, Fife Labour and Fife Council’s 3 Independent councillors voted to close 16 libraries, with no exception to Glenwood Library.
The SNP’s amendment, to the Labour-led administration motion, asked for an extension of 1 year to be given to 14 of the 16 libraries facing closure. This 1 year would allow communities to develop and propose alternative delivery models in a fair way, not the rushed, back of a fag packet method that Fife Labour are forcing on them.
In addition to that, our group proposed that a solution be looked into to find a way to keep Abbeyview and Glenwood Library open in their current forms.
Unfortunately, the Labour/Independent councillors didn’t support this either.
I tried my hardest, along with all my colleagues, to save Glenwood Library, and I know today’s decision will have a huge impact on a lot of people’s lives.
However, I will now be ensuring that I work with the community over the next year to make sure that the best alternative delivery model is proposed and then adopted for the people of Glenrothes West and Kinglassie.
(Below, you will find my speech that I gave to full council).
“As I stand here today, I feel somewhat bemused by the position we are in.
We are all sitting in the Kingdom, only 20 miles away from the birth place of Andrew Carnegie – the father of the Free Library.
The very man who said:
“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
For me, libraries are not businesses to be judged on their economic value. They are community and cultural centres, places where people can learn, meet and grow.
Their value may be harder to ascertain, but it is no less real.
Provost, even though it has now been some months since the results of the consultation were announced, I am still trying to understand how the list of libraries to close was compiled.
In a recent publication by Fife Labour, where they desperately try to defend the indefensible, it states that:
“The decision to review library provision was made on the basis of sustainability. The libraries identified for closure were in most cases not being used significantly by the public”.
However, for me, this reasoning doesn’t quite add up.
Fife Cultural Trust recently published their annual report – which is for 2014/15. And, it will be no surprise that the part I found most interesting was the Libraries Performance section.
Given that the administration has been telling everyone that “the libraries identified for closure were in most cases not being used significantly by the public”, then I hope you can all understand why I was shocked to learn that Glenwood Library was the 8th most visited library in 2014/15, with over 58 thousand visitors.
That’s 8th out of 51 libraries. And that was with a 7% increase in visitors from the previous year.
I know this library all too well, and I know the great facilities that it holds. Like a lot of other people, my partner, who is currently studying for a PhD, uses Glenwood on a regular basis.
It is the only library in the Glenrothes area that has a zone for silent study: which is the area Cllr Bill Brown has just proposed is removed. So, if the ill thought out plans of the administration come to fruition and this service closes, where will youngsters go to complete homework? Where will college or university students go to quietly carry out research? Where will there be for people investigating their family history, or for those who simply want to sit and read a newspaper?
Therefore, unlike the motion put forward today by the administration, I strongly believe the current delivery model for Glenwood library is working. The statistics, published by FCT, shows this.
I want to see this facility really being saved, not the responsibility being pushed on to the community. A community that has only recently lost a local primary school.
What Glenwood library needs is investment, not cuts.
One quarter of our children in Glenrothes West and Kinglassie are living in poverty.
Only 33.6% of Ward 14 schools leavers go into Higher Education.
Libraries can play a key role in our fight against poverty. They are gateways to learning, and learning is a pathway out of poverty.
Now, if my earlier quote from Andrew Carnegie was a bit high-brow for some, then maybe something from Dr Seuss is more suitable:
“The more that you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go.”