Hundreds of people have signed a petition to save Birkenhead Central Library.
The Borough Road library was opened in 1934 by King George V, and has a stained glass memorial window to First World War poet Wilfred Owen, who lived in the town.
Since 2010, Wirral’s budget has been cut by central government, so that for every pound it had to spend 13 years ago, it now has just 40p. While the government offers pots of central money, such as the levelling up funding, this can’t be used for services such as libraries and leisure centres, and can only go on earmarked regeneration projects.
As a result, council officers have put together a series of drastic measures, including closing 10 of the remaining 15 libraries and moving Birkenhead Central and Wallasey Central, to Birkenhead Town Hall and the Floral Pavilion.
Labour campaigners have opposed these moves, putting together a budget which retains all 15 libraries and keeping them on the same sites. But, as a hung council, they need another party to back these proposals.
Outreach and community support worker Piara Miah put the petition together to show the strength of public opinion on the matter, and encourage the other parties to join them and keep libraries and leisure centres safe.
“Birkenhead Central Library has been in its current location for 89 years, serving generations, a beacon of progress, education and community, everything we should hold dear,” she says.
“When Tory cut backs threaten invaluable services, I, along with my colleagues Julienne McGeough and Helen Collinson started a petition to save it. Whilst we already know it’s vital to save the libraries; it is good to have the public engagement to strengthen our mandate.”
Piara volunteers with Healthwatch, Heart4Refugees, Faiths4Change and is a Parent Champion with Wirral Multicultural Organisation.
“In the last few years, I have worked hard to bring services to people who struggle to access support, because things like language, travel, finances and childcare are barriers,” she says.
“The team at Birkenhead Library have always tried to accommodate our requests. This includes housing mums and tots groups, classes, as well as other community events. I am personally grateful for their care.”
Labour campaigner Julienne McGeough has been working with Piara to encourage people to sign the petition, and she the strength of feeling in the area.
“I used the library every week during childhood and without the working space it provided I couldn’t have got my PhD,” she says. “My children benefited from the library staff helping them choose books that would interest them and summer activities that kept their reading up over the long school break.”
Please sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/save-our-library-66493821-0547-4f73-8eb8-0905999ef825
Main image: www.birkenhead2020.com
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