Friday, 27 September 2013

Bristol Central Library needs you...

Sign the petition against the plans here

Bristol Central Library is under threat. Through the use of manipulative language and innuendo a local post-independent school has decided it would quite like the status of operating out of a grand old building like that the Central Library resides in. The Bristol Cathedral Primary School has significant investment that it can make, but instead of creating a satellite school with this money it has decided it wants a piece of Bristol's history instead.

Edit (clarified 29/09/13): At the request of the school I want to add this: The school is not *replacing* the Central Library. That is not the threat I talk about. The threat I talk about is to the functions of the library. As the first commentator says below this post, it's not enough to just say the public access part of the library is untouched, because the public part *needs* the private part to function at it's best, and because satellite libraries closer to communities that need them will also see their services suffer.

If we want to diminish the role the Central Library has in Bristol, then we should let this go ahead, and we need to hold our tongues if and when this means the library service becomes less relevant to people in Bristol.

And this, fellow Bristolians, is why you need to speak up.

Key facts:

Following facts can be found in more detail in my recent blogpost

  • There is a primary school shortage in bristol that is on the rise. It is predicted that without development there will be around 1350 too few places by 2016
  • The Bristol Cathedral Primary School will reportedly add 420 places to the city's primary school provision by renovating two lower floors of the library building currently used to store it's vast resources
  • The areas that most need new school development are the south (over two thirds of school shortages will be in South Bristol), and the North (over two thirds of current unmet parent demand is in North Bristol)
  • The area around the proposed Bristol Cathedral Primary School sees no predicted future need
  • If the school is undersubscribed the school may choose to take students from outside of the Bristol area and therefore meaning the school may not be servicing Bristol residents within a Bristol public building

But with this in mind there are a few questions that perhaps you should write to your councillor and ask before they meet in November to discuss this plan...

  1. Can the school be developed elsewhere in the city and allow the Central Library to retain it's function for the people of Bristol?
  2. Can the council explain whether or not modernisation of it's collection and storage would happen if the proposal didn't go through, and why?
  3. What are the costs to the taxpayer of rehousing, staffing, securing and operating the same functions as provided currently of the stored resources and books?
  4. Why can the school not be placed in the facilities or location that the library storage is intended to be moved to, since they must be of similar need in space?
  5. What do the library staff believe needs to be done to improve storage in the Central Library? Do they believe a drastic change as proposed is necessary?
  6. What is the likelihood of the school moving in to the Central Library in helping either the families of South Bristol (~2.5miles away) and North Bristol (~3.5miles away) where schools are significantly oversubscribed?
  7. What do the proposals do to ensure that those on the outskirts of the city have as equal opportunity of access to the school as those in the more affluent areas closer? Will there be funding for poorer families to make the long, congested journey to the school? If so who will provide this?
  8. Have/Will parents outside of the BS1 area been consulted on their likelihood to use a school situated in the Central Library before the proposal is accepted?

There is nothing that so far says the plan for this school's expansion can only happen if it happens at the Central Library, I firmly believe that the Central Library can retain it's current form (and be modernised too), and that the school will be able to find somewhere in Bristol to expand their service.

We need to get to the bottom of just how "city wide" this proposal is, how much it's going to help ordinary families from all around Bristol, and how much the actual cost of the changes will be to the Bristol council tax payer. Don't wait for councillors to act on the pound signs that are being offered up before their eyes, focus their attention on the questions that matter!

I strongly feel we can get both more primary school provision in Bristol, and save our Central Library service from being reduced or made harder to access than it is currently, we don't have to choose between the two. Help show councillors that you believe this too, and get in touch with them before November.

Sign the petition before October 13th


  1. With regard to your "Edit" clarification, I understand your rationale for clarifying, at the request of the Cathedral Primary School tweeter, that the public area of the Central Library will be visibly unchanged if these proposals pass Council and English Heritage approval.

    However, as you also allude to, I would emphasize to your readers that it is the quality of the service and the resources available that make the Central Library what it is.

    You might as well say that if you removed all the contents of your house to one of those Big Yellow storage warehouses but left the contents of your front hall intact, there would be no change in the public access part of your house.

    It is the quality, speed and convenience of the service that makes Bristol Central Library the focus and centre of the Library Service - and that's another thing: whatever effect these plans have on the Central Library stock will amplify and ripple out throught the branches; the Central Reserve contains a stock for all the branch libraries in Bristol as well, and they and their users rely on being able to swiftly retrieve items from there.

    Change to the public face of the library? Here's one: never again will you hear a member of library staff say:

    "Just a minute, I'll just pop downstairs and find it for you."

    But yes, Lee, you are quite right: it is not for Bristol Library Service to defend its space, its stock and its property - it is for the Free School to demonstrate why this is the only option on the table - why here, why now, and whether any benefit that might accrue from its continuing expansion will outway the damage done by hamstringing the city's one and only Central Library.

  2. I wonder if the school's chief financial backer (who happens to be a Merchant Venturer) may be asking favours of another, red-trousered MV?


Got something to say about my post? I'd love to hear it!

Try to keep it civil, I don't delete comments unless obliged to or feel the thread is getting too out of hand, so don't make me do it.