Northern Ireland

Ten libraries in Belfast to close

Library

Nearly a third of all libraries in the greater Belfast area are to close.

Libraries NI said 10 of the 32 branch libraries had failed to meet modern standards and the cost of improving them could not be "justified" because of declining usage.

The board said there would be an "open" branch within two miles of each closure.

Another four libraries which were under threat have been reprieved.

Libraries NI carried out a review of public libraries in the greater Belfast area and put its proposals out for public consultation.

The Strategic Review analysed each library in terms of fitness for purpose, potential to deliver the vision of Libraries NI, its location and sustainability.

Initially, 14 branch libraries were judged as "unsustainable" and earmarked for closure.

Libraries NI said it had decided to keep four of them open following the consulation process and public feedback.

They are: Ballyhackamore, Cloughfern, Tullycarnet and Woodstock.

Chief executive of Libraries NI Irene Knox said: "I am pleased that the vision of Libraries NI has received this public endorsement.

"The vision is focused on libraries performing a key role in society, providing a central hub for learning, information, culture, reading and heritage.

"The libraries closing do not offer development potential in line with the vision and many have experienced a stark decline in usage rates.

"We have emphasised from the outset that there will be no job losses as a result of the process.

"We will continue to meet with staff affected by this decision and their unions to agree a constructive way forward together."

On Thursday, the Alliance's Naomi Long said she was pleased that the proposal to close libraries at Ballyhackamore, Tullycarnet, and Woodstock "had been abandoned".

The East Belfast MP said: "I am, however, deeply saddened that Ballymacarret, Braniel and Gilnahirk libraries are now set to close. These libraries are a vital resource and their loss will really hurt the communities in question."

Commenting on the closure of Andersonstown library, the SDLP's Tim Attwood said users of the library "will be angered by this decision".

Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey said he would be seeking a meeting with the board "in order to press once again why these libraries should not be taken away from the community".