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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Happy world book day, one of the highlights of our children’s calendar. But the magic and wonder that comes with world book day is being snuffed out thanks to @AberdeenSNP and @AberdeenLibDems who just yesterday cruelly mothballed libraries across our city. https://t.co/GCQK5VjZYF
— Ross Grant (@RossGrant12) March 2, 2023
‘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…”
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.
I had no money growing up. My dad was a labourer and my mum did everything to make ends meet. Men worked hard. Women worked miracles. But education was free. As was the local library. I knew books were my passport to a better life. Happy #WorldBookDay pic.twitter.com/CvWcvzUard
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) March 2, 2023
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.
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.
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.”
As a kid I spent every Saturday at either Mastrick or Northfield library (now set to close under these new cuts) and would fill my school bag with books to last me the week. The librarians knew me and would point me in the direction of new authors I might like. (2/8)
— Philippa (@PhilippaGerrard) March 2, 2023
‘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.”
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.