The Library Lobby very warmly welcomes the news that Deputy Ian Ward is to recommend to Cabinet the shelving of immediate plans for the closure of Sutton Coldfield library to allow time for a financially sustainable library model to be drawn up.
We note that “The model being considered for Sutton Coldfield Library is based on achieving additional income through property rental” (p 265 https://birmingham.cmis.uk.com/birmingham/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/9382/Committee/2/Default.aspx) and are delighted to learn that Birmingham City Council will finally be taking seriously the opportunity they have to create additional income in the Red Rose Centre.
The past few months have been an extremely difficult time for library staff and The Library Lobby would like to acknowledge the professional service they have continued to provide in the face of great uncertainty. From the outset The Library Lobby has put librarians at the heart of what we’ve campaigned for, and now, more than ever we will need to work closely together on creating and implementing a plan to create the best community library in Birmingham.
We note that under the new proposal regarding the library, Birmingham City Council will need to carry out work to facilitate the letting of the second floor of the Red Rose Centre. We urge BCC to act quickly on this front. The Library Lobby’s original response to BCC noted the need for a manager for the building, to deal with issues surround the public toilets, building maintenance and related issues. With a commitment to invest in the second floor (to facilitate commercial letting of the space), we believe a buildings manager will be more necessary than ever and urge BCC and Sutton Coldfield Town Council to include this in the finalised deal regarding financing the library.
Zoe Toft of the Library Lobby said:
“Whilst this isn’t yet a done deal, it’s great news – perhaps the best we could possibly have hoped for – and so I have to thank everyone who has played a role in getting us to this point, in particular all the campaigners who voiced their support for the library, the media who helped get our message across, Cllr Liz Parry for her work that facilitated the town council making a financial commitment to the library, and to Cllr Ewan Mackey for his successful negotiations with BCC.
From where I stand there are now two key issues.
First, the Town Council must sign off the immediate financial commitment agreed to at the Town Council meeting in January. The key dates for this are February 15th, the next Finance and General Purposes committee meeting and the full town council on February 21st);
Second, for this plan to blossom it is vital for community groups to step forward and become involved. ‘The library lobby has worked hard campaigning to save the library. We now need groups that are experienced in (or wish to to set up) running cafes, activity groups, reading groups, support networks and other community events for which we know there to be a strong appetite and desire to see taking place in the library. It is now time for everyone who wants to make a positive contribution to both the success of the library and a better Sutton Coldfield for all to get in touch. Without the creative and enthusiastic involvement of a broad range of Sutton Coldfield residents, the future of the library will remain in doubt.”
Library Lobby member Jonny Mayner said
“We’ve had some good news, but it is a bit early for celebrations. We will have a town library until the end of August that will be open for 35 hours per week. If I raise a glass at this stage it will be in tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this stay of execution. It is now incumbent upon City Council and Town Council to continue to listen to Sutton Coldfield residents and to work together to find a sustainable long-term solution that will see a full service, professionally-staffed library at the heart of our town centre.”
Fellow Library Lobby member Jenny Wilkinson said
“While the combined efforts of The Library Lobby, Sutton Coldfield Town Council and local campaigners has earned a stay of execution for the Library, there remains a lot to be done in a relatively short period to secure a permanent solution. We urge local community groups who feel they could make a contribution to a ‘community hub’ to come forward to support a combined proposal to maximise the use of a the site for the town.”
Full details of Birmingham City Council’s amended library plans can be found in the Birmingham City Council Cabinet Agenda Pack: