BY TOM HANLEY
Chair of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign
SO Highfield library has closed.
Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (SBLC) continues to oppose the closure, and we await a response to our submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
We oppose ALL the proposed library closures, but in the case of Highfield, there are particularly compelling reasons.
Highfield library serves one of the most socio-economically deprived areas in the country.
The latest report, in January 2012, shows that 20.9 per cent of children across the UK live in poverty; in the Harper Green Ward, where Highfield is located, the figure is 33 per cent.
The Orchards Federation was opened to great fanfare in 2008. A purpose-built, integrated setting, bringing together St Germain Nursery, Cherry Tree School, Greenfold Special School, with Highfield Library and a children's centre forming part of Lower Orchards.
It was praised as one of the first of its kind by the schools minister in 2009.
The library is located in the middle of the school and played a central role in children's learning programmes. The library staff have been heavily involved in language strategies and have worked very closely with school and children’s centre staff who all share the same staffroom.
Typically children entering the majority of local schools are developmentally below the national average especially in respect of their communication, language and literacy development, all of which are key to their future progress.
The current drive to help children make progress in these areas will inevitably be undermined without the library.
Further to this, adult learning courses have now been destroyed. The combined impact on disadvantaged children and parents must surely have a multiplier effect on literacy levels.
For years, every national and local report has placed improvement in literacy at the centre of all economic and social improvement, yet we believe Bolton Council have made no attempt to address the consequences of closing Highfield Library.
Another glaring disadvantage attached to the closure is the existence of a purpose built empty library in the centre of the building, with no plan for its use to date.
The empty library is at present an economic negative on the council balance sheet.
Furthermore, it is hard to imagine any future use compatible with the aims of The Orchards.
So we now have a situation where a flagship project has had its heart ripped out with no regard to the long term educational needs of the children served, and a very doubtful financial saving.
It would be interesting to hear the council address these concerns. We believe, so far, there has been no discussion, and the school issues have been ignored.
Is it too late for sense to prevail, or do we have to wait for Government intervention?