A campaign has been launched to revamp three Sheffield libraries and return volunteer-led services back to the council. A Facebook group is calling to refurbish Walkley, Tinsley and the Central Library and scrap late-return fees.
Sheffield Libraries SOS is running a petition demanding these measures are put in place, claiming that book loans have decreased dramatically since volunteers took over 16 branch libraries.
A social media campaigner under the name of Matthew Smith said: “It is terrible for the most vulnerable in society. Burngreave, Tinsley and other areas with large minority groups have reading and poverty levels below the Sheffield average, and only have one volunteer-led library.
“The library in Tinsley is reduced to a room with little more than a cupboard full of books and a fragmented service.”
One commentator on the SheffieldForum website, who did not wish to be named, said: “A good quality public library service is an indicator of a civilised, free society. Libraries should be properly funded and staffed by experienced people.”
The council gave control of 16 libraries to community groups in February 2014, amid cuts under the Conservative government’s drive for austerity. A further 12 libraries are still run by public staff.
Sheffield Communities Against Library Privatisation (SCALP) formerly campaigned against the council’s move.
Another commentator, Roger Stevenson, 73, from Old Park Avenue, Greenhill, said: “Matthew Smith is of the opinion that professional library staff provide a better service than volunteers. I think that financial restrictions make it impossible to give them back to the council.
“Volunteer-led Greenhill Library is a valued community asset, providing much more than when under council control: coffee morning, book sales, film events for all ages and neighbourhood watch meetings.”
A spokesperson for the Walkley Library, which is run by a voluntary committee, said: “In 2014 we were actually against the handover, but the decision was taken because there is just no funding, no money, and there was no other choice.”
Like many volunteer-run libraries, Walkley Library receives money through donations and fundraising events. They recently applied for a funding grant to renovate the site, which is about 100-years-old.
Another comment on SheffieldForum said: “This is a great idea, but under the current financial climate, you are banging your head against a closed book with far more funding needs. Cuts to local services are inevitable across Sheffield, and more needs are on actual one-to-one social care.”