In the last four years over £380k has been spent by the city council in refurbishing both the interior and exterior of Spring Hill Library. This spending on the 121 year old library was envisioned as an investment in the future for the people of Ladywood.
This valued local facility and the investment in the library is now under threat due to a proposal to close Spring Hill library.
In 2010 the Cabinet Committee (Property) agreed £230k for external refurbishment from the constituency capital fund to ‘To refurbish and repair the external envelope of the grade II listed Spring Hill Library.'(1)
A further £150k was agreed for internal refurbishment in December 2011 from the Local Improvement Grant and work was completed in 2012. (2)
These capital investments were made with the intention of increasing library usage and increasing library user satisfaction. It was also seen as meeting different objectives under the Council’s Plan 2010+ and in prolonging the life of the library. (3)
Spring Hill Library sits adjacent to the Tesco’s store which opened in December 2010. As part of the agreed re-development of the Spring Hill site Tesco’s invested in a glazed entrance adjoining the library and the installation of lift allowing disabled access to the top floor of the library.
This private investment was seen by the Council as being beneficial to the ‘setting of the building and would also help preserve its use.’(4) It has been suggested that the company spent in the region of a £250k on this improvement work that has benefited the library. We are seeking confirmation of the actual amount.
It is likely that over £600k of public and private money has been spent on the development of the Spring Library site. We would invite the Chair of the Ladywood District Committee to confirm the exact amount.
It should be noted that the decisions to invest this capital in the future of the library were taken in the full knowledge of the prior decision of the Council to commission the Library of Birmingham in 2007.
The proposal to close Spring Hill Library was publicly announced at the January meeting of the Ladywood Ward Committee and it has been repeatedly defended by Councillor’s upon the basis that Spring Hill Library is proximate to the Library of Birmingham and is surplus to need. (5)
The library closure is part of the cuts proposals included in the Ladywood District Budget for 2014-15.
The proposed closure is not just an issue of the waste of money, and £600k is a significant amount, it is about the success and impact of this investment on boosting and revitalising an already successful library.(6)
The explicit intention of the investment was realised and this is what is now at risk:
Following the opening of the new supermarket users’ numbers for the library have increased by more than double rising from 22,932 to 48,500 a quarter and book loans have increased from 5,572 to 8,761 per quarter. (7)
Spring Hill Library is a success and is a much used and much loved local library. Ann Gallagher of the Friends of Spring Hill Library sums up what the library means for the people and community of Ladywood.
Spring Hill Library is an essential welcoming place providing books, groups, and access to the internet. It is an inclusive place used by many from the young, to the retired, disabled, sick, unemployed, and the newly arrived to country.
It combats social isolation and is the last free place in the area anyone can go to, especially for those without funds or fitness. All this what will be lost if the library is cut and closed.
The closure proposal is poorly conceived and is the ultimate false economy both financially but more importantly in the loss of social capital and community cohesion. (8)
For more information about the campaign to keep Spring Library open go to Petitioning outside Spring Hill Library on Saturday afternoon
(1). Spring Hill Library external works – Full Business Case. 25th January 2010
(2). 6 Month Portfolio Update The Cabinet Member For Finance Councillor to Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committee 16th March 2012
(3). Spring Hill Library external works – Full Business Case. 25th January 2010
And see extract from proposal for internal refurbishment:
The proposal contributes towards the strategic outcomes outlined in the Council Business Plan 2011+, specifically ‘Enjoy a High Quality of Life’ by providing improved leisure and cultural facilities; ‘Succeed Economically’ by assisting in improving adult educational skill and performance therefore giving better employment opportunities and ‘Make a Contribution’ allowing local people to engage in community activities and civic participation in their local areas.
(4).Report of Strategic Director Environment and Culture and the Strategic Director of Corporate Resources 14th December 2011
Committee Date: 27th November 2008 Application Number: C/02143/08/LBC
(5) Birmingham City Council meeting – 4 February 2014 http://bit.ly/1gkZ7db
(6). ‘Visits have increased by 2.87% from 2007 to 2008’. From Report of the Strategic Director Environment & Culture 29th January 2010
(7). Para 4.4 Report of Strategic Director Environment and Culture and the Strategic Director of Corporate Resources 14th December 2011
(8). Up to date information on the usage of the library has been requested from the the Chair of the Ladywood District Committee and is awaited at the time of writing.