See protesters lobby South Tyneside Council over library proposal

The protest at South Shields Town Hall over library changes'.
The protest at South Shields Town Hall over library changes'.

Union members gathered at South Shields Town Hall yesterday to protest at plans to revamp library services in the borough.

UNISON and the South Tyneside Public Service Alliance have hit out against the council’s Library Reconfiguration Plan which would see community groups take over the running of some libraries.

The libraries involved are Whitburn, East Boldon and the Boldon Lane and Primrose libraries in South Shields.

Future services will be centred on The Word, in South Shields Market Place, Hebburn Central, Jarrow Hub and the Cleadon Park centre - which will serve as “multi-service hubs”.

The protestors were joined by members of the public as they lobbied the council ahead of the cabinet’s consultation meeting on the strategy yesterday.

The council says such changes are a result of ‘unprecedented financial pressures’ and will consult on the plans.

If approved, a public consultation on the council’s proposals will be launched next month.

The protest comes after UNISON launched a campaign to keep branch libraries open with paid staff.

They say branch libraries are the last free open, inclusive, spaces left in communities and added that they are highly valued by South Tyneside residents.

Gemma Taylor, South Tyneside PSA co-ordinator, said she was pleased with the turn out.

She said: “Today is just a lobby so we weren’t expecting large numbers, but we have got a lot of support and we are sending a clear message that libraries are vital to the borough and should be kept in the community.

“They are among the last local council assets left.

“It is not just about taking out books, people use them if they are isolated or if they need support.”

UNISON say that, if councilors decide to hold a public consultation, they will respond formally.

The union says it plans to go into libraries and get its own feedback from those who would be affected by the plans and sibmit them to the council.