There was a protest last Saturday morning outside of Glebe Farm library, which began with about a dozen people chanting “Put Glebe Farm in tier 2; that is what we ask of you!”
People then went into the library, to a public meeting chaired by Councillor Marje Bridle (Hodge Hill and assistant Birmingham City Council leader). On the top table were John Cotton (Lab – Hodge Hill), Basharat Dad (Lab – Stechford and Yardley North) plus the two other councillors from that ward (the one the library is actually in); Neil Eustace and Carol Jones (both Lib Dem). There were also two people from the Castle Vale Residents Association who addressed the meeting.
The number of locals attending grew as Cllr Bridle posed the question of how to generate income, and asked for volunteer help. The land within the library grounds might be used for income generation, such as a conservatory extension, for example.
Cllr Eustace stressed that any hours gained from a Kents Moat library closure should not be lost, but should go to the Glebe Farm and Sheldon libraries.
Cllr Dad reminded the meeting that 1100 names had been included in the two petitions to save Glebe Farm and that it was a well-used local resource.
Ray from Castle Vale Residents said that they could put help/resources into complementing the services that Glebe Farm offered, particularly if it went into tier 3. In that case it would need local people to take ownership.
There were one or two very pointed comments from local people demanding that the council should just leave their library alone and to put aside all this tier nonsense, followed by some general discussion about government and local state funding. Support was given from the Friends of the Libraries of Birmingham (FoLoB) and it was pointed out that the Glebe Farm campaigners were not alone; there were serious campaigns in other parts of the city; Aston, Sutton and Stirchley for example. FoLoB is campaigning to preserve a proper library service across the city.
In summary, Cllr Bridle seemed to be accepting the tier 2 route for Glebe Farm, taking 15 hours from Kents Moat in the process. She said Glebe Farm library was a fantastic resource. The area had lost nearly everything and deprivation was not being sufficiently taken into account. Castle Vale could put resources in. Could a lottery bid be used to extend the library? These and other points would be taken to Birmingham City Council before the consultation ends next Friday. There would need to be a meet-up again after the 27th Jan with Cllr Ian Ward.
Before the meeting closed a young man pointed out how the demographics of the area was changing, and that the concerns of ethnic minorities and youth need to be more fully addressed in any future restructuring. One of the Castle Vale people offered to help with youth work.
Overall, congratulations are due to the Glebe Farm library campaigners. They have done a good job in attempting to preserve one of the last remaining public services in their area.