Roath library reopening: Will it meet the needs of the people? Will it have the services like before?
The campaign to keep the Roath library publicly funded turns into a losing battle as the Cardiff Council decides to have a community group take over.
The library has been closed for more than a year ago due to fault in the boiler resulting in the leakage of the roof. Now under Community Asset Transfer the library building will be taken over by a community group who will put in the money to restore the building and run another project there.
The major problem with Community Asset Transfer is that the library facilities might not be the same as before. “It is clear that Roath Library will not have enough space for the 16,000 books, 13 computers and equivalent of three full time staff or the service residents once enjoyed. At a time when one in three children do not own a book, our Labour council should think carefully about the social impact of depriving a poor area of a proper library,’’ says Adam Johannes of Cardiff Peoples Assembly.
Alice Shing, a Save Roath Library campaigner, has the same concerns as Johannes. “After Community Asset Transfer, the libraries end up being run by volunteers. How can you guarantee that people will turn up at time to open the library? How can a group of volunteers make that commitment? Unless the Community Asset Transfer is paying the volunteers, I don’t see the library being as usable as before.”
The process of Community Asset Transfer started with the Cardiff Council invited bidders to come forward from community groups to take it over. “The Council told us the transfer will be finalised by April 1st,” explains Alice Shing, Save Roath Library campaigner. Ms Shing along with other campaigners met with their respective MPs and Westminster to talk about the issue, but the conflict still hasn’t been resolved.
Mr. Johannes thinks that the bidding process lacked transparency. “Local residents have been kept in the dark, given no information about who is being offered takeover of their library building and there has been no consultation of the community over any of the plans,” says Johannes.
Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott expresses her support for the campaign. “Keeping it publicly funded is important to keep the library accessible to the people. My main concern is that the library services won’t be the same after the takeover,” she says.
After the transfer, the Council will continue to look after the library services says Peter Bradbury, Cabinet Member for Community Development, Co-operatives and Social Enterprise. “The building will be taken over by the winning bidder but the library services will be funded by the Council,” he says.
Ms Shing notes that while announcing their budget for the next year, Cardiff Council confirmed that they are making savings of £250,000 from library cuts as part of the overall budget plans. This is the same figure it would have cost the Council to get Roath Library restored.
“There hasn’t been any proper temporary library replacement in place which provides all the services that people need which has been a cause of inconvenience,’’ says Ms. Shing.