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Aberdeen budget: Crime writer Stuart MacBride says closing six libraries ‘impoverishes chunks of city’

Stuart MacBride says Aberdeen library closures will leave 'chunks of the city impoverished'
Stuart MacBride has hit out at plans to save £280,000 by closing six Aberdeen libraries. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Libraries across Aberdeen are facing their final chapter as the council plots the closure of buildings that have served their communities for decades.

People in Cornhill, Cults, Northfield, Ferryhill, Woodside and Kamhill will all see their local branches “decommissioned” as part of a major savings drive.

Shutting them will save £280,000 as the council seeks to fill a black hole of almost £47 million across the next year.

The front page of Thursday’s Press and Journal covered the controversial meeting. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

Local authority leaders blamed falling usage and changing habits for axing the buildings during yesterday’s bruising budget meeting.

It came amid a stormy session that also led to the impending closure of the Beach Leisure Centre and Bucksburn Swimming Pool.

Our look at the issue, which comes on World Book Day, features:

  • Stuart MacBride on why adding libraries to the “bonfire of cuts” will “impoverish chunks of Aberdeen”
  • A look at how many of the buildings have served as winter “warm hubs”
  • Council co-leader Ian Yuill explains the rationale for the unpopular move

Author ‘surprised’ by shock budget cut

Stuart MacBride, famous for the Logan McRae series of Aberdeen-set grisly crime novels, has visited libraries across the region to talk about his best-selling books.

Stuart told us: “I’m surprised that the council wants to impoverish six big chunks of Aberdeen by shutting their libraries.”

Stuart MacBride has been an ambassador for the Granite Noir crime writing festival.

The writer took exception to comments during the meeting that library services are “more than buildings”, as they operate online too.

He said: “The council is right about one thing: libraries are ‘more than buildings’…

“They’re people and knowledge, they’re access to computers and learning, they’re support and community hubs.

“They’re entire ecosystems built around the access to books.”

Woodside Library will be mothballed. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The author added: “The idea that it’s OK to shut libraries, because ‘people can borrow books online’ presupposes everyone has access to laptops and tablets and eReaders, when we know that’s not the case.

“Sacrificing libraries on the bonfire of cost-cutting might save money, but it impoverishes us all.”

‘Magical worlds’ for kids snuffed out

Labour’s education spokeswoman, Kate Blake, said the “tragic” decision would hit “some of our most deprived communities”.

She said: “Libraries are one of the few public spaces that people can easily access the internet, computers and printing.

“Libraries open up magical worlds to kids.

“Even if you don’t borrow a book, they offer opportunities to explore, sit on the floor and be transported somewhere else…”

Ferryhill Library on Fonthill Road will shut. Image: Google Maps

How do affected Aberdeen libraries help their communities?

The blow was dealt on the eve of today’s World Book Day, which has seen many famous faces praise the role libraries played in their life.

But the Aberdeen facilities are more than just a haven for literature enthusiasts.

Four of those libraries have recently acted as “warm spaces“, as the soaring cost of power bills caused hard-up residents to seek refuge in public buildings rather than pay to heat their own homes.

Northfield Library, in one of Aberdeen’s poorest areas, has also acted as a warm bank. Image: Google Maps

While serving as impromptu shelters, Cults, Cornhill, Northfield and Kaimhill have provided visitors with more than just the latest page-turner.

They have offered “advice, information and guidance” to those in need, along with newspapers and period products.

With free wifi available, they are also hailed as a “quiet work or study space” while turning away from the cold.

Cults Library, just off the A93 road to Deeside, has been there for almost 50 years. Image: Google Maps

Kate Blake accused her administration counterparts of “failing to take into account” the role these buildings have played during the cost-of-living crisis.

Council co-leader hits back at critics

Ian Yuill is co-leader of the SNP/Liberal Democrat ruling group who pushed through the budget during a heated Town House meeting yesterday.

The Lib Dem group leader, who is a fan of the Logan McRae series himself, told us the cut came after usage figures were scrutinised.

During the meeting, he justified the move by claiming: “Library services don’t just happen in buildings… You can use them without darkening the door of a library.”

‘Aberdeen library closures needed’ claims veteran councillor

Earlier today, Mr Yuill insisted there remained “many other” libraries in Aberdeen that people can use if they do not have the internet.

But he added: “Library reserves can be accessed in lots of ways… I access the library service almost every day on my iPad.

“Our library users have the option to use Borrowbox, where they can get ebooks or audio books too.

“The sessions that take place in libraries, such as reading for children, could be moved to community centres.”

Cornhill Library is also closing. Image; Google Maps

Mr Yuill continued: “It’s not just about bricks and mortar. We have buildings from the mid-20th Century when we need a service fit for the 21st Century…

“For lots of people these days, their first port of call is to reach for their phones.”

Responding to Stuart MacBride’s comments, the co-leader stressed: “We had to balance our budget.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make.”

You can watch the meeting here.

Aberdeen budget: Libraries to close, school meal costs to increase and council tax to rise in ‘deplorable’ savings drive