A new chapter for Sheffield libraries

Grenville Wilkinson, pictured at  Walkley Library,
Grenville Wilkinson, pictured at Walkley Library,
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Expressions of interest have been made by 27 potential bidders who are keen to take over Sheffield’s community libraries.

Some 18 community and voluntary groups have registered with the city council, along with six individuals, two private companies and one parish council.

Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for communities, Mazher Iqbal, said he could not yet release their identities - but added that the number showed there was a ‘strong interest’ in keeping the 27 community libraries open.

The council says it could close up to 14 libraries unless it can get other organisations to run them, as it seeks to make £1.6 million of cuts to the £6.4m libraries budget.

Grenville Wilkinson, of Walkley Community Forum, said he is aware of two groups interested in taking over his suburb’s library - although the forum has not itself registered.

Mr Wilkinson said: “We had a meeting this week attended by two councillors but they said they could not tell us any more details about the interested parties.

“We still believe, however, that the council should keep all libraries open and make the cuts from elsewhere in its budget. We have a petition signed by 1,000 people calling on the council to avoid closures.”

Coun Iqbal said that suggestions and ideas put forward by interested groups range from general offers of volunteer support to organisations wanting to run several libraries or, in some cases, the entire service. No religious groups have applied.

Some have proposed libraries running other services such as a community café, restaurant and wine bar, art and design classes, job clubs, internet café and a digital media centre.

Coun Iqbal said: “We are delighted with the very positive response to our call for help, as we have had 27 registrations of interest from a range of organisations, individuals and the community.

“It shows a strong interest in wanting to help Sheffield provide libraries.

“The responses have shown the range of pragmatic and imaginative ideas out there. Our job is to now look at these in greater detail to help us develop options.”

Coun Iqbal added that due diligence tests on the interested parties will now be conducted and the aim was to develop ‘firm proposals’ by June - which would then have to be approved by the council’s cabinet.