By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
The leader of Nottingham City Council blamed the council’s financial situation for proposals to close three public libraries.
Cllr David Mellen (Lab) said the proposals would ‘clearly’ make people unhappy as they were “the structure of the city.”
Nottingham City Council, which has nearly £1bn of debt, has to save around £38m in the next four years.
Cllr Mellen said a reduction in government grants had also led to difficult decisions needing to be made.
The local authority is proposing to close Basford Library on Vernon Road, the Radford/Lenton Library on Lenton Boulevard and Aspley Library on Nuthall Road.
Aspley Library will close to the public and become what is described as a “distribution point” providing services such as the home library and mobile/outreach services.
It is expected to save around £233,000.
Cllr Mellen told an Executive Board meeting on Tuesday, January 18: “Like any other authority we had to look at libraries around how we balance our budget.
“We reviewed our library service, which acknowledged as well as being affected by Covid, just like other libraries around the country, there has been a decrease in visits to the library, in the books being taken out in person.
“But there has been an increase in the online activity therefore our library estate needs to respond to that.
“Clearly this is not something we would want to do but our finances dictate that we look at everything.
“Clearly people will not be happy with these proposals, those who use the library are very fond of it and it is a structure of our city.
“It provides not just a place to borrow books or use computers but a place where people can meet and a sense of community. But we are in this situation and need to cut our cloth according to our resources.”
Now, a public consultation will be launched to find out what people think about the specific proposals.
The council says the three libraries under review have low usage, with 22,680 annual visits to Basford Library, 7,920 visits at the Radford/Lenton library and 38,820 in Aspley. These libraries have also been deemed some of the least cost-effective in the city.
A report prepared for a council meeting stated: “There has been a national decline in usage of libraries over the last 10 years which has been mirrored in Nottingham, which has been further accelerated by the pandemic.”
The plans have been drawn up at a time when the city’s main central library remains closed, because its multi-million-pound replacement, part of the new Broadmarsh car park and bus station complex, is unfinished.
When complete, it will replace the old Angel Row library, which closed in 2020. This has been described as the most used library in the city – but its books remain in storage awaiting the opening of the new site.
An exact opening date has not been confirmed as the council still needs around £10m to fit it out. An opening date has not been revealed yet.
The council commissioned external specialists in library services to carry out a report and launched an online public survey with 1,713 responses received.
It found Nottingham’s overall cost of delivery is higher than most other library authorities, with some libraries having very low usage making the cost of running them high.
The council stated: “Many libraries have overlapping usage catchments and demand in certain areas has declined.”
Cllr Kevin Clarke, leader of the opposition Independent group at Nottingham City Council said the proposals were “disgusting”.
He said: “We do not have a Central Library. How short-sighted can you be to close the main library in Angel Row before they have sold it?
“They should have waited until the new Central Library was open before looking to close these libraries.
“They are ripping communities apart and they will pay for it in the end – these are community meeting places.”
The council is responsible for 15 public libraries across the city, made up of a network of 11 community libraries, three libraries at Joint Service Centres and the Central Library.
A public consultation is planned to take place over a 12-week period from January to May 2022.