Mirfield Library group 'staggered' by Kirklees Council’s plans for the site to be community-managed

The Friends of Mirfield Library have been left “staggered” by Kirklees Council’s proposals to move the facility to a community-managed model, with fears the site will be closed by stealth.
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The plans to make eight of the borough’s 24 libraries community-run first came to light last month and cabinet approved plans to “establish the feasibility” of developing a community-managed model.

However, concerns have been expressed that this won’t work in practice, with too great a responsibility being placed on volunteers.

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Cynthia Collinson, who is the chair of the Friends of Mirfield Library group, said: “Mirfield is an enormous library. We’re open 36 hours a week and we can’t run without professional staff who know what they’re doing.”

Chair of the Friends of Mirfield Library Group, Cynthia Collinson, at Mirfield LibraryChair of the Friends of Mirfield Library Group, Cynthia Collinson, at Mirfield Library
Chair of the Friends of Mirfield Library Group, Cynthia Collinson, at Mirfield Library

Ms Collinson also pointed out that the library is around 200 years old and will require investment for its upkeep or risk falling into dereliction.

She added: “We volunteers can’t manage a library. We can put books in alphabetical order, we can organise coffee mornings but we don’t have the skills to manage a library.”

When asked what the group would like the council to do going forward. Ms Collinson replied: “We’d like the council to revisit whatever rationale they’ve used to put Mirfield into the third category with a view to moving us into one of the other categories.”

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Ms Collinson said that Mirfield Library is significantly bigger than the other seven libraries set to be community-managed – Honley, Meltham, Marsden, Kirkheaton, Skelmanthorpe, Denby Dale and Shepley – further exacerbating the concern.

Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield), left, and Coun Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley)Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield), left, and Coun Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley)
Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield), left, and Coun Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley)

A petition which now has around 2,000 signatures was launched by Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Spen Valley, Coun Adam Gregg (Con, Lindley), seeking to rally public support to keep Kirklees Libraries professionally staffed and resist the proposed management changes.

He said: “Libraries play a pivotal role in our community, and it’s our duty to protect them.

"The proposed changes could negatively impact the quality of service, and we cannot allow that to happen. I urge everyone to sign the petition and show their support for our libraries.”

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A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “Volunteers and community groups play a big part in making our libraries such an important part of our community, with a number of communities or town and parish councils now owning the building that the library operates from.

“Like numerous other councils have already successfully done, we are looking at building on that strength and exploring ways in which local people and organisations can play a bigger role in running their library alongside Kirklees Council. That includes not just books and learning but all the activities that put libraries at the heart of their community.

“Like virtually every council in the country, Kirklees faces a major financial challenge.

"But we think involving communities more in the running of our libraries is one way we can keep these vital services accessible within our very limited resources.

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“Every part of Kirklees is different, and the right solution for that local place will vary, including the balance between the roles of the local community, town and parish councils and Kirklees Council.

“In all cases, the council will be there to support and enable libraries to be an important part of the local community.”

"This doesn’t always mean that Kirklees Council needs to take the lead in running it. That’s why we will be spending the next few months talking to residents and local groups about the right library service for them.

"Any talk, therefore, of a plan to close a particular library is incorrect.”

A link to the petition can be found here: https://www.adamgregg.uk/library