A top union boss has condemned proposals to slash Lurgan library’s opening hours.
Proposals to cut the opening hours from 50 to 45 have been condemned by the union Unison.
Libraries NI just announced that it plans to consult on chopping the opening hours at Lurgan and 13 other busy libraries.
The consultation is to be held from May 17 to July 17 ‘to identify the most suitable pattern of hours in the 14 libraries concerned’.
“It is proposed that the opening hours in the 14 busiest libraries will be reduced from 54 and 50 hours to 45 hours accordingly,” said the Libraries NI statement.
However UNISON’ Brian Ferguson said, “This is the 3rd round of cuts to library opening hours since the inception of the Northern Ireland Library Authority.
“The use of libraries is an integral part of the social fabric of our communities.
“Use is high and growing as poverty and unemployment increase.
“The local library is a shared space, a meeting place, a place of safety, companionship and learning.
“Further cuts in opening hours will seriously impact on the long term viability of libraries as a vital community service.
“In some instances it is the only public service left in rural communities.
“Furthermore, these cuts demonstrate a disregard for people in general and the ethos of public library provision specifically.
“Older people, women, and young people use their local libraries on a daily basis.
“The ability to access their library service and take part in activities and events has been acknowledged as aiding social inclusion, health and well being. UNISON believes any additional reduction in library hours will have a disproportionate detrimental impact on these users.”
“Cuts in hours has clearly led to staff struggling to meet the demands of the service and expectations of the public.
“It is UNISON’s view that the proposed budget allocation to Libraries NI is insufficient to enable the organisation to operate a much needed public service.
“We call on government ministers to think again. Stop the imposed cuts on the library service.”
The Libraries NI statement said: “The reduction in library opening hours forms part of an overall package of savings that Libraries NI needs to implement to help meet current budget demands.
Commenting on the cuts Chief Executive of Libraries NI Irene Knox said: “This is not the ideal situation however we must plan for and consider our budget for the year ahead. We will continue to liaise with staff, customers and stakeholders throughout this process and we will listen to any concerns raised. If our circumstances change, and additional funding is made available, then it will be used to minimise the reductions in library opening hours.”
For the consultation, people are invited to complete a questionnaire which can be accessed at any of the 14 libraries affected or online at www.librariesni.org.uk .
The new patterns of library opening hours for the 14 libraries will be implemented in November 2016.