ELDERLY residents are rallying round to fight against council cuts that will see their beloved library closed.
Moorside Community Centre and Library is a lifeline for some older members of the community and last week pensioners got together to demand a rethink.
The library, which opened in 2009 thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, is a much needed part of the community and users say it is an essential facility in an area barren of other council community centres.
Members of Seedfield Tenants and Residents Association (STRA) have expressed their concerns over council plans to close at least 10 of the borough’s libraries.
The association hosts a lunch club at the library every Friday for elderly residents in the Moorside ward.
Gary Hardman, STRA chairman, said: “Our library was opened eight years ago thanks to a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which also paid to open another three libraries and community centres in the borough.
“We campaigned to support the initiative to open the libraries for residents and we were guaranteed to have our centres open for 20 years. Now we’ve been told they’re going to shut.
“There’s a high percentage of elderly people in this area so the STRA is a lifesaver for some of those residents.
“If we lost the library I’m not sure we’d be able to carry on because we couldn’t afford to run it.
“Because we’re insured here, volunteers are happy to come and give up a few hours a week — whether they’re helping out in the library generally or giving their time up for the lunch club.”
Mr Hardman has criticised the council for giving the public only two options – which both result in the closure of the majority of the borough’s libraries.
The first option would save Bury Library and the archives, Prestwich Library and Ramsbottom Library, the second would save Radcliffe Library in addition to those.
A full report of the options for both libraries is available online – another decision which Mr Hardman has heavily criticised.
He said: “The council just assumes that everyone has access to the internet or knows how to use it.
“It’s unfair because many older people don’t know how to use computers let alone find reports on the internet.
“It means they’re unable to read about the proposals and are forced into choosing one of the two options which don’t include saving their much-loved library.
“That’s why we’ve come up with a third option – to save the smaller libraries, which are cheaper to run than the bigger ones, much more accessible and lifelines for many vulnerable people in the borough.
“We believe the council is pushing ahead with these proposals without looking at the real effects on users who rely on these centres.”
Cllr Iain Gartside has previously spoken out against the closures, adding that the libraries set to close are cheaper to run and maintain than the three or four main libraries which would be saved. He said: “If we’re looking at saving our most efficient libraries we should look at what we’re trying to achieve.”
Residents have expressed their concern about the sense of community in the borough.
Head of pastoral care in Seedfield, Cecil Young, who founded STRA in 1997, said: “There is a deep concern in the community that if this library is closed, it’s going to destroy the sense of togetherness. And those are the words of many residents who use this centre and attend the lunch club on a weekly basis.
“The council created the community spirit here when they built the pensioners bungalows nearby around 40 to 50 years ago. We’ve spent all that time building our sense of community and now they’re going to take that away from us.
“Moorside Library is at the heart of our community and a major support for people in the area. I know how disappointed they are and there is no way majority of these people would travel into town to use the library.”
Brenda Davies, aged 77, attends the lunch club every Friday and says she would be sad to see it close.
She said: “Everyone here is so friendly, the volunteers can’t do enough for us. I look forward to coming every week.”
To have your say on the proposals, go to surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bury-libraries-consultation
To back the campaign against the closures, visit facebook.com/BuryCommunityLibrariesFIRST