'Deliberate, wicked nonsense': Hundreds gather to 'Save Aberdeen Libraries'
Campaigners call on City Council to reverse decision ahead of special meeting on Monday
By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
Photos by Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco
The sound of drums and voices raised in anger echoed outside Marischal College Saturday afternoon as several hundred demonstrators gathered to protest the City Council’s decision to shutter six libraries (Cults, Ferryhill, Cornhill, Woodside, Kaimhill, and Northfield) across Aberdeen at the end of the month. Announced as part of budget slashing cuts by the SNP/Lib Dem administration in early March, libraries in some of Aberdeen’s most deprived areas will be closed despite operating costs of just 280 thousand pounds.
Speakers from all corners of Aberdeen shared a common refrain: these libraries provide essential services for children, the elderly, and the disabled.
As Fiona Meade, a campaigner from Cornhill, told demonstrators: ‘Our library is more than a site to get books, it serves as a safe, warm space. [It] provides bookbug sessions. It introduces children to lifelong learning. To close our library is to prevent our residents from accessing knowledge, enjoyment, and employment opportunities… It takes away a community space in an deprived area, and further erodes our community’s already dwindling public resources.’
‘The value of our library is far more than its maintenance bill,’ Meade continued. ‘This is not the way to save money. It’s an easy swipe at neighbourhoods that are least able to defend themselves… I ask the SNP and Liberal Democrat administration, is this the impact you want to leave as public representatives? Are you even representing your constituents? Are you happy to be part of the council that shut the libraries, because that is a shameful legacy.’
Several speakers hit back at the rhetoric of the ruling administration, including comments by Lib Dem leader Ian Yuill which suggested that individuals in affected communities could merely just go online to access reading materials.
Lynn Thomson, a Labour Councillor for Kincorth, Nigg, and Cove, told the crowd: ‘As for Councillor Yuill stating that: ‘Well you can just use your iPads to read stuff online’- not everyone has access to an iPad. Not everybody has the skills necessary to use one. Some people want to go to the library. They want to make use of that warm space. Many libraries in Aberdeen have been designated as warm spaces. This seems such a short sighted lack of vision…’
Esther, a local writer, also excoriated the council for its decision. She said: ‘To close libraries is to diminish the life of a place and its people… For councillors to claim that libraries can be replaced by online resources, it is nonsense, and deliberate, wicked nonsense. As we all know, anything online is expensive, and only the wealthy and entitled could suggest it as a replacement for a library… There is nothing more potent in tackling poverty than education and nothing more important to education than libraries… The most impoverished thing in this city… is the collective mind of Aberdeen City Council. If these closures go ahead, Aberdeen will be widely considered, and rightfully, as backward, a place deliberately diminished by its elected leaders. My advice is, don’t vote for any of them again. I certainly won’t.’
Simon Watson, a Labour Councillor for Torry and Ferryhill, invited the demonstrators to attend a special council meeting on Monday which will discuss the effects of the closures. However, due to the administration voting against allowing deputations on the budget, members of the public are not allowed to address the council directly, a decision which campaigners roundly criticised.
‘This is small money,’ Watson commented. ‘This cost 280 thousand pounds to keep them open. There’s a contingency fund in the council of four million pounds for this year. There’s the money there to keep them open if there’s the political will. I hope all the other councillors on Monday will vote to give the libraries a reprieve and to make sure they stay open for the people of Aberdeen. We should not be closing a third of our libraries.’
Indeed, for the thousands of people who live in some of Aberdeen’s most deprived communities; these libraries are not a luxury, they are a necessity.