It was only four years ago that I was chairing the Save Swindon’s Libraries campaign, trying to prevent Swindon Borough Council from defunding all our libraries except for the Central Library at Regents Circus.
After hours of negotiation and demonstration, we managed to persuade the Borough to include Highworth, West Swindon and North Swindon libraries in the public funding umbrella. This was a small success, but it left several other large libraries out in the cold and facing closure if they could not find sustainable funds.
Although we would all have preferred every library to stay under the remit of the Council as public libraries, some of the smaller ones transferred to community ownership, but a large library like Park Library was just too big for the community to take on. I remember sitting down to research and write a 13 page submission to the Council’s consultation based solely on why Park Library needed public funding. I reiterated these reasons to the council officers and Cabinet members on a weekly basis. The campaigners from the Parks, including the six Labour Borough councillors, leafleted the community and organised local demonstrations to show the strength of feeling about keeping this large and important library open.
It did the trick and we’re all still so pleased and proud. The Labour-run South Swindon Parish Council has topped up funding here to make sure that the staff can stay longer and that the library is open when local residents need it.
And the hard work of the staff at Park Library has paid off! Record numbers of people are visiting the library and it remains a vibrant and much-loved focal point of the Parks community. When we visited today, there was a craft group attended by children of all ages, staff were busy lending books and answering enquiries and the computers were in constant use.
Keep up the amazing work Swindon Libraries staff, South Swindon Parish and of course us, the borrowers/ crafters/ computer users and visitors!