Today I want to show you something exquisite. A gift to us, the people of Liverpool, from early in the 20th Century.
As you can see from those opening times, the library is already suffering from austerity politics. No evening opening and closed altogether 3 days a week. But things might be about to get a lot worse. Because Sefton Park is one of the 11 out of 19 of our public libraries now in severe danger of closure.
Following last night’s meeting of the City Council’s Culture Select Committee in Liverpool Town Hall we are now entering the final 4 weeks of public consultation before the Council will take its final decisions on what we’ll then have left of a library service.
I lived around Aigburth Road in the 1970s and 80s so this was ‘my’ library.
To employment, to public services, to self-fulfilment, to democracy. I wasn’t talking lightly when I called this place a cathedral.
One of 3,000 libraries given to cities and towns around the world by Dunfermline-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. As Wikipedia says:
“His method was to build and equip, but only on condition that the local authority matched that by providing the land and a budget for operation and maintenance.”
And until now Liverpool City have happily complied with the conditions of The Gift. Until now.
(And philanthropy is difficult, I understand that. I know from my conversations with City Libraries staff over recent months that even Andrew Carnegie wouldn’t have known, 100 years ago, what it would cost to run the libraries he gave us into the 21st century. But we’re only looking for savings of £2.5m per year, that’s what might cause 11 libraries to close. A couple of banker’s bonuses.)
And Thomas Shelmerdine? City Architect at that time and also designer of Toxteth Library (safe so far), Everton Library (long closed), Kensington Library (threatened), Wavertree Library (threatened), Garston Library (safe so far) and West Derby Library (also threatened).
Full list of threatened libraries here.
No one’s yet saying these precious buildings are themselves threatened. I understand talks are now taking place about possibilities for many of the 11 libraries under threat of closure. But it’s deeply upsetting to see our City leaders seemingly forced into such savagery by a political system that values bailing out corrupt banks over the future of its people.
Well done you people.
I would hate it if the day were to arrive when these photographs of mine became some sort of shrine to something precious and lost. We’ve only had The Gift for 100 years, its got many more generations worth of work to do yet.