Young and old gathered in protest today in an effort to save one of Aberdeen’s oldest libraries – backed online by renowned Scottish authors.
Val McDermid and Ian Rankin are the latest to spread the word about the campaign to keep the buildings open, following Stuart MacBride.
Listening to music, poetry and local voices, a crowd of Woodside residents came together in solidarity to make their views heard despite the wet and rainy weather.
Woodside Library, due to celebrate its 140th anniversary this year, is one of the city’s facilities marked for closure on March 31.
The library is one of six to be “decommissioned” as part of a major savings drive by Aberdeen City Council.
However, many local people, including leading Scottish writers, have criticised the council’s move as “short-sighted” and “uniquely cold and shrivelling”.
A library helping to write 140 years of families’ stories
Following the council’s announcement, petitions were launched in support for the city libraries at risk with many sharing their memories of the sites.
For Woodside Library, those memories run deep. Having been a gift to nearby residents in 1883, the branch became the largest in Aberdeen in 1932.
All homes were even given a printed catalogue of the first 9,000 books stocked in the library to help encourage them to use the branch.
Today, elderly residents who rely on the services for community, warmth and as a source of help, have said it remains a “vital community asset”.
Hayden Lorimer, an organiser of the protest, said it is “unimaginable” to think of the community without the library.
“Woodside Library has been at the heart of our community for just under 140 years,” he added.
“It’s absolutely staggering to think about if we imagine the number of books that have been borrowed in that time.
“Taking something out of the heart of the community like a library has really significant impact.
“I live just round the corner from the library. I am someone who has used it for the last 15 years. My son, when he was growing up and learning to read, was a book borrower so it’s absolutely part of our family’s story.”
Scottish writers: ‘We need libraries’
He hoped the protest will ensure the council “think very carefully” about the impact of these “short-sighted” closures.
“The knowledge that a library imparts and gifts to its readers is a super power,” Mr Lorimer, 51, added.
“[Today] All of us have a shared sense of purpose, all of us have the same strength of feeling.
“All of us are absolutely committed – not just to having a demonstration – but for continuing on for the course of this month to ensure that the council revisit their decision.”
Other communities have also launched petitions with residents near Ferryhill Library staging a read-in and penning ‘library love letters’ to councillors.
The protests have caught the eye of some of the country’s leading authors and writers who have offered “tremendous statements of support”.
Please share widely and support this campaign against Aberdeen library closures…this writer & human wouldn't be here today without them & I know I'm not alone in that… https://t.co/VCzHiW4d2A
— Kerry Hudson (@ThatKerryHudson) March 15, 2023
After signing the petition for Woodside Library, Scottish crime writer, Val McDermid, stated on social media: “We need libraries. They’re time machines, havens, sailing ships for all sorts of dreams and ambitions.”
Scottish poet and essayist, Kathleen Jamie, highlighted the essential services offered by libraries stating: “There’s something uniquely cold and shrivelling about closing down libraries.
“Libraries mean literacy, learning, community, communication, warmth, safe space, kids, elders, imagination and knowledge. We can do better.”