LETTER: We need to stand up and fight for our libraries


The Friends of Batley Library group was set up in August 2015 to help stave off the threat of closure to this magnificent building.

Since then we have done our utmost to help to support the fantastic, friendly and hard-working staff and their small army of volunteers.

We have held events and tried to think of ways to increase footfall into the library.

One of our current projects is the Memory Lane Café.

This was established in the hope of encouraging persons experiencing short or long-term memory loss to come along and meet people going through the same experiences in a warm, friendly, environment.

Now, we face the very real threat of having to repeat the desperate fight to stave off that same threat of closure once more.

The council have announced that they will be slashing a further £1.9m from the library services budget for the financial year 2017-18.

This will leave the entire budget for the whole service at a paltry £2.3m.

Compare this with the budget being at £4.1m for the year 2016-17 and you will see why this threat has emerged once more.

Libraries were already forced to reduce staff and opening hours in order to stay operational and how they are possibly going to be expected to adopt these further cuts is quite simply, anybody’s guess.

Perhaps it is worth pointing out that councils across the land have been granted permission to raise council taxes by a maximum of five per cent, three per cent of which is supposed to be earmarked to help cater for the crippling crisis in local social care.

The question I pose here is was the library to be closed as a result of these budget cuts, what impact will it have on the more vulnerable members of society?

They rely on the library service as a vital source of information and education.

Last Friday, the library hosted an event simply entitled ‘Love Batley.’

I had personally tried to encourage members of the public to come forward and say a few words to my camcorder in the hope of creating a short film to showcase at this event.

In total four people emerged, which meant I had to revert to my many hours of footage I have from my own ‘Pride of Place’ film.

I even ventured out on the day in the hope of encouraging shoppers on the market to come in and take a look, as well as enjoy a hot beverage and a biscuit or two.

Imagine my horror when I saw there was a grand total of two market stalls there on the day with not a single shopper in sight to encourage in?

Admittedly the weather wasn’t too great but again, is this not another prime example of how far our beautiful town centre has been allowed to decline?

In total, a number of seven people came to listen to the talk we had organised from a delightful chap John Rumsby.

Five of those were members of the Friends group and the other two were ladies that had attended the crochet class beforehand.

We will continue to do our very best to attract more people into the library and to use it more often than they are doing.

We are well aware that the very same threat hangs over the heads of the libraries at Mirfield, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Birstall and I know how much effort their Friends groups have put in previously to safeguard the future of their particular library.

Batley has to react now and be ready to prove to Kirklees that the library and art gallery are an essential part of the town (and by library I am including the building) before it is too late.

Commercial Street, the job centre, the market, the fire station, the library?

Whatever next is going to be allowed to simply disappear without so much as a whimper?

Simon Roadnight, Chairman of The Friends of Batley Library