Historic city libraries saved from closure due to Covid relief fund

Whiteinch, Maryhill, the Gallery of Modern Art, Couper and Barmulloch Libraries were set to remain shut.

Historic city libraries saved from closure due to Covid relief fund STV News
Read-in demonstrations were held at Whiteinch Library in Glasgow.

A fight to save historic Glasgow libraries from permanent closure has been won after the Scottish Government agreed to fund their reopening.

The city’s 33 libraries were closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic but only 28 were then scheduled to open again.

Whiteinch Library, Maryhill Library, the Gallery of Modern Art Library, Couper Library and Barmulloch Library had no reopening plans spurring on locals to campaign to save them.

Both Whiteinch and Maryhill have served their communities for a century or more.

Save Glasgow Libraries@SaveGlasgowLibs
Save Glasgow Libraries

Glasgow Life, the organisation that manages the facilities on behalf of the city council, said it was committed to finding a solution to continue operating the services.

Protesters staged a series of “read-in” demonstrations across the city highlighting the need for what they described as the only “completely free and agenda-free” spaces available to the public.

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government announced more than £1m in funding to reopen some libraries closed during the pandemic or expand their services.

Almost £500,000 was allocated to see Maryhill, Whiteinch, GoMA, Couper Institute and Barmulloch reopened and to increase the opening hours of other libraries across Glasgow.

But campaigners are concerned the money is only a temporay fix.

Rebecca Addison, a spokesperson for the Save Glasgow Libraries campaign, said: “It’s great to see this funding allocated to getting all of Glasgow’s libraries reopened.

“However, this funding will not ensure the long-term future of the library service in Glasgow.

“Looking at how the fund has been allocated across Scotland, seeing £448,000 of the £1m total fund going to Glasgow highlights the precarious way that Glasgow Life funds what is a statutory service.

“The funding model is a problem which will have to be addressed by Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Life.”

A note hung on railings at Whiteinch Library (Michael Shanks)Twitter
A note hung on railings at Whiteinch Library (Michael Shanks)

The five Glasgow libraries will reopen by the end of Januray, Glasgow Life said. The not-for-profit organisation said the funding would also allow it to return opening hours to pre-Covid levels in all libraries by the same date.

The Scottish Government’s £1.25m Public Library COVID Relief Fund will support 23 projects around the country to “re-connect communities with their libraries”.

Applications were made through the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC).

Ian Ruthven, chair of SLIC, said: “Public libraries are an essential part of Scotland’s social fabric, supporting and inspiring people to fulfil their potential for over 150 years.

“Improving mental wellbeing, tackling social isolation and closing the digital divide are some of the key aims of public libraries. The Public Library COVID Relief Fund will allow local public libraries to reconnect with their communities and offer these much-valued services.”

Culture minister Jenny Gilruth said libraries were much more than a place to borrow books.

“This funding is part of the Government’s wider aspiration to drive a cultural recovery for our communities,” she said.

“I look forward to seeing how libraries use this support to benefit their local area and to working with the library sector on our future recovery plans.”

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said: “We have always understood how important libraries are in their communities – and that is reflected in the financial guarantee the council extended to Glasgow Life to ensure more of these valued venues were able to open sooner, after being closed by the pandemic.

“The council committed to explore any possible option to make sure every library is able to reopen – and the city made a strong case for this very welcome additional funding, which will make that possible.

“We need to be clear that Maryhill and Whiteinch libraries both still need substantial capital investment for the future; but I am looking forward to all of Glasgow’s libraries welcoming people back through their doors.”