County council and Westminster have “wrecked” our library service

Burnley Library

Burnley Library

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Regular users of Burnley Central Library’s community history section have slammed Lancashire County Council for closing it and transferring the service to “a small corner of the library”.

Burnley’s main library, in Grimshaw Street, closed the doors of its reference section, which occupied the whole of the basement, at Christmas to the shock of many who have used it including students and pensioners.

The library service in East Lancashire is a shadow of what it once was.

Coun. Roger Frost

Burnley resident Mr Mike Smith said: “As a library user for more than 50 years, I was shocked to find that the local and family history section on the lower-ground floor of the Central Library in Burnley has been closed.

“This excellent resource, at a flagship library – much used by students, family historians, writers, researchers and anyone who wanted to find out anything about Burnley’s past – is now no longer available.

“The alternative provision made on the ground floor now comprises a table and two chairs alongside a shelf full of disorganised local books and two study booths, shoe-horned into the non-fiction section.

“This is a bad move that further reduces the educational and social opportunities for local people.”

Mr Smith’s comments were echoed by respected local historian and Burnley Coun. Roger Frost who accused the county council of “wrecking” the library service.

Another eminent local historian Ken Spencer, recently awarded the MBE for his voluntary services to the library, described the move as “a total disaster”.

Coun. Frost said: “Closing this section of the library, which was very well-used, is a disgrace. The county council has wrecked the library service. It has closed numerous small neighbourhood libraries, decimating the service, and now this.

“Family history research is a popular past-time, so to close this section is a real blow. The library service in East Lancashire is a shadow of what it once was.

“I appreciate that the Government’s grant to Lancashire County Council is at least half of what it was in 2010, but I think the county’s cuts have been an attack on the museums and libraries service.”

Mr Spencer said: “Moving the community history section has been a total disaster. I do not attach blame locally, but rather this lays at the door of Preston and Westminster.”

Lancashire County Council insisted that no resources from the section had been thrown away and that items had only been relocated.

A spokesman said: “If items aren’t in the relocated Community History Section, they have either been placed in the main lending library on the ground floor, or being stored safely in a ‘rolling stacks’ storage area.”

County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, defended the move and said the basement would be used for other purposes in future.

He said: “The community history section has been relocated from the basement to a higher floor at the library. We recognise this is a valued resource and it has been retained, including the quiet reading and learning areas.

“It has been moved to make space available for other services to share as Burnley Library is now a neighbourhood centre.”