Sinn Fein voice concern over library cutbacks

SINN Fein has blasted proposals to chop the opening hours of Cookstown Library to just 40 hours per week.

It is part of a widespread cost cutting measure by Libraries NI to help reach a £10m savings target over the next four years.

Sinn Fein councillors at Cookstown issued a statement voicing ‘major concern’ at the proposals.

Sean Clarke, Chairman of the Council said: “This development is of major concern and we in Sinn Fein wish to emphasise our opposition to such a proposal.

“Cookstown Library provides a vital service to all our community. The library is not just about loaning books. It provides an essential internet and ITC suite in a district which has recently been ranked second last for broadband provision both here and in Britain.

“It also provides community facilities for various local groups as well as services for the migrant communities,” said Councillor Clarke.

“Cookstown library is also unique as it is part of the South West College campus and provides essential support for students who study there.

“Such measures are unacceptable and we in Sinn Féin intend to make our opposition to these plans known to the department and stress the importance of this facility to the Cookstown district.”

The proposals are to cut the hours of Cookstown library from 53.5 hours to 40, while the hours at Magherafelt will be cut from 57 hours per week to just 40. In Maghera the library hours are to be slashed from 44 to 30 while in Moneymore the hours are to be reduced from 22 to just 18 hours per week.

Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said: “Over the next four years, Libraries NI has to make cumulative savings of approximately £10.3 million. In our first two years of operation we have already made efficiency savings of £2.7 million and there is therefore little scope to make additional savings without impacting the provision of frontline services.

“Reduced opening hours will be very difficult for both our customers and our staff and the Board of Libraries NI deeply regrets having to take this course of action. We will consult openly with people during this process and we are inviting people to engage with us regarding the proposals. In all of our actions we want to be fair to customers, to libraries and to our staff.”