Save our Libraries: Silence for Glasgow's campaigners as they seek reopening date

As winter looms and closures remain in place across many libraries, campaign groups in Glasgow are demanding reopening dates before Christmas – and more engagement from politicians.

A campaign group is growing increasingly frustrated as its library and community hub remains closed as nights get darker and temperatures drop.

Save the Couper Campaign which began in May said politicians were only vaguely engaging over social media and ignoring grassroot campaigns set up to try to encourage reopening the Couper Institute’s library which has been in the Cathcart community for nearly 100 years.

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Mhairi Taylor, from Save the Couper Campaign, said: “There was a flurry of activity over the summer partly because of media attention but actually the reality is we’ve had no response. It’s just really rude.

The unveiling of our Save the Couper banner, with some of regular campaigners outside the Cathcart institution.

“We are not party political or combative and we don’t want our campaign to be made into that. We are working women who would like to have our library open for our children who are all school age.

“We’ve been in the pandemic now for coming up to 20 months and to not have a local resource like this, especially for people who have lost work, is just really frustrating.”

A £1.25 million fund was announced as part of the SNP’s Programme for Government over a month ago. However, with47 libraries still closed, campaigners are concerned about how this money is being used as they claim they have seen none of it invested in their libraries.

Colin McGeoch from the Save Whiteinch Library and Glasgow Against closures campaign shared the frustrations.

A recent rainy day read-in at the Couper Institute with the gazebo up.

He said:

“This is totally unacceptable. The poorest in our society have been affected the most. This has been a choice. The council has chose to do this. Councillors have sleep walked through this.”

Overall, Glasgow has the highest number of library closures without reopening dates.

As of today, the Couper Institute Library has been closed for 569 days.

Mhairi Taylor on a rainy day, holding up a sign showing how many days the Couper Institute library had then been closed.

This week will be the campaign group’s 24th ‘read in’ which happens every weekend outside the Southside building where campaigners socialise and bring community groups together.

Taylor said: “We are putting up gazebos and standing in the rain trying not to get our books wet so it’s becoming even more challenging. We will still be here come rain or shine but it’s getting difficult.”

“Having somewhere where you can go and sit for free with something to do – and it’s warm – is so important for communities.

“What I’d like to do is before Christmas get everyone to come down and celebrate the reopening of the library with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “Library provision has been prioritised and 28 of the city’s 33 libraries will reopen. As part of this, Elder Park and Woodside libraries will reopen in 2022 following significant investment and refurbishment; providing upgraded, modern spaces and services that will enhance the value of these buildings in their local communities in the long-term.

“Five libraries do not yet have a reopening date. In the case of Barmulloch, this is because it is currently being operated by the NHS as a Covid vaccination centre. The other four libraries – Whiteinch, Maryhill, Gallery of Modern Art and the Couper Institute – are historic buildings and each requires substantial capital investment to address significant repairs. In all of these cases, work is ongoing to explore alternative local provision, subject to additional funding becoming available, and to plan for the long-term future of the buildings.”

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