New chapter for Bolton's branch libraries

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , news editor

BOLTON’S first “neighbourhood collection” – which is a mini self-service library in all but name – opened under a cloud, on Monday, in Farnworth.

Based at the Orchards, in Highfield Road, the former base of the now defunct Highfield Library, the two bookshelves hold a few hundred books, compared to the 8,000 which used to be housed in the main library.

There are 850 books in all, although some have been held back in order to refresh the choice every couple of weeks or so.

The move, as has been well documented by now, is part of the closure of five libraries in Bolton, to save £400,000 over two years. Part of wider savings of £100 million over four years. Gloomy stuff, eh?

It is not ideal – even Bolton Council accepts that – but it appears needs must.

There are some positives to be taken. The new neighbourhood collection is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, whereas the old library was only open on Mondays and Thursdays, albeit from 9am to 7.30pm, as well as Saturdays until lunchtime.

The quality of the books on offer, too, cannot be argued with. These are not the stereotypical tattered old library books, with covers missing and pages falling out.

And if you can’t find what you are looking for from the books on offer, you can order a book in free of charge, from the library service’s wider stock, using one of the two computers available for use.

On the subject of the computers, people can also use these free of charge for up to an hour, to check emails, apply for jobs or browse the internet.

This is no replacement for a fully fledged library, but it is better than nothing at all.

And the council has said that if these five neighbourhood collections – the other four will be based in Astley Bridge, Halliwell, Castle Hill and Heaton – then it may look at introducing further collections in areas such as Kearsley or Smithills, which currently have no library facilities.

I think that is what they call a silver lining.

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