“Cornerstone of our community”: Libraries set to re-open in Wales

Libraries can reopen from today marking the next chapter in Wales’ journey out of lockdown. 

While book sales hit an eight year high in 2020, for those who rely on public libraries it has been harder than ever to get hold of their favourite hardbacks.

Whitchurch Library opened in 1904 but for the last year its doors have been closed.  The AWEN@thelibrary charity is based in Cardiff North was set up to support Whitchurch Library. 

Marc Palmer, the chair, says reopening will make all the difference to those who depend on the services inside the building. 

“I think [libraries] are a pillar and cornerstone of our community. A lot things change around you – different shops open and close but the libraries are always there,” he said.

“Whatever your background, you have books that you can use for education – you have all that knowledge at your fingertips.

“A lot of stuff is online and if you don’t have a computer at home, you have the technology there so it allows people to go in and apply for jobs or search their ancestry, for example. It opens up a whole new world to a lot of people all for free.”

[Libraries] open up a whole new world to a lot of people all for free.

Marc Palmer

The news is welcomed by Steve Dimmick, CEO of doopoll and the founder of CardiffRead, a book club which used to meet in Canton Library every month but now holds events online.

“Books in themselves are a form of escapism,” he said.

“But, coming to the club gives a completely different circle of friends and it’s a chance to hear things outside of the echo chamber they have in their lives right now.

“Books become companions and friends and libraries are providing friends for people in many instances.

“Anyone who has a favourite book, I’m sure that book has become a friend of theirs.”

Books become companions and friends and libraries are providing friends for people in many instances

Steve Dimmick

Cllr Joel Williams, candidate for Cardiff North in the upcoming election, recognises how important the libraries are for locals.

“We know libraries are well used by many in our communities and for many they are a lifeline; especially for those who don’t have access to the internet or technology,” he said. 

“So our libraries and our hubs do an incredible amount of good and it’s important for residents in Cardiff North that the libraries are back open.

He also said the reopening of some public spaces is a step in the right direction:

“I think we do need to start opening our society. The vaccine is our route, our key out of lockdown and we cannot go back to a full lockdown. 

“We need to learn to live with this virus safely and I believe we can do that whilst at the re-open our economy, jobs and livelihoods that are dependent on the decisions that we as politicians will make.” 

From tomorrow, Whitchurch Library will be able to offer a click and collect service and members of the public will be able to book time slots to use the computers and digital services available.