Books

Big Issue columnist Damian Barr helps to save Newarthill library

Damian and the local community prevented the controversial closure of Newarthill library

Newarthill Library

Newarthill Library

Following an extensive and heartfelt community campaign, councillors have voted to keep Newarthill library open.

The library in North Lanarkshire, Scotland had been earmarked for closure along with six others, but a community campaign – which included Big Issue columnist Damian Barr – has managed to prevent the closure of a much loved and used library.

Damian Barr outside Newarthill Library
Damian Barr outside Newarthill Library

Barr, who grew up in Newarthill, tweeted: “We saved the library that saved me!” Writing previously in The Big Issue, he said: “Newarthill Library was my sanctuary. I am only a writer now because I was a reader then and very specifically there. It costs almost nothing [to run] but means everything to the people using it. Libraries are a frontline service, not a luxury. They are the engines of social mobility.”

https://twitter.com/Damian_Barr/status/806922984392949760

Councillor Jim Logue, leader of North Lanarkshire council, said: “The local community have worked extremely hard to make the case for keeping Newarthill Library open and have fought an impressive campaign.

“Crucially, they have done a lot of work to increase usage of a much-loved community facility. We have listened carefully to their views and have decided to keep the library open.

Libraries are a frontline service, not a luxury

“We will continue to work with the community council and the Save Newarthill Library campaign to examine options for a new community hub in the future.”

Saving librabries and promoting literacy is close to The Big Issue’s heart, and Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has been campaigning in the House of Lords and elsewhere to keep these issues as high-profile as possible.

In a recent speech, Bird said: “We’ve lost more than 500 libraries since 2010. If you are going to cut libraries you must be prepared to build more prisons, to build more homeless hostels. Libraries are essential, yet what is happening is that they are being cut.”

“I recommend that Her Majesty’s Government supply some emergency relief money to stop local authorities doing this dastardly deed, this process of philistinising our communities,” added Bird, who was appointed to the House of Lords as a non-party crossbencher at the end of last year.

“If we make a saving here, we will make a loss elsewhere. Health, sociability, work and all other issues will come into play. I beg us all, before we allow another library to be lost or librarian laid off, to think seriously: ‘Is this a saving?'”

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