KIRSTIE Cusick’s voice breaks with emotion as she describes the connection she feels to her local library.
Ms Cusick has been a library enthusiast since childhood with fond memories of leafing through books, attending dance recitals and even having her wedding reception at a Glasgow library venue.
However, for the past few months she has been one of many campaigners with Save Glasgow Libraries who have been highlighting the plight of Langside, Pollokshields and Govanhill.
Libraries across the city were among the venues operated by charitable organisation Glasgow Life which closed during lockdown and while several sites have reopened their doors other communities are still waiting to find out when their library will once again be at the heart of the area.
Govanhill reopened earlier this year and campaigners are hopeful that Langside and Pollokshields will reopen next month.
However, it is a bitter sweet victory for Save Glasgow Library as they know not all communities are in the same position as them.
Ms Cusick said: “I really get quite emotional when I talk about it. Libraries belong to the people of Glasgow and are much more than just a place to read books. They are a refuge for many. From Book Bug clubs for parents with little ones to cancer support services housed in libraries these were face to face services which supported people before the pandemic.
“I have gone to libraries my whole life from a little girl right through to adulthood so for me it has been natural to get involved when we realised they wouldn’t be reopening as we had hoped.”
Ms Cusick has been a regular attender at the Saturday mornings read ins where people gather to look their own books and show support.
“Although it would seem we are getting closer to both Pollokshields and Langside reopening it is bitter sweet for us as we know there areas where people don’t know when their facilities will reopen so it doesn’t really feel like a victory,” she added. “And even if our campaign comes to an end, it wouldn’t be done dusted as we will support the other communities until they get a resolution.”
Another South Side venue, the Couper Institute in Cathcart hasn’t reopened and recent figures revealed it would require £400,000 to allow it to reopen. It is among five city libraries which require a combined £1.2million to function including Whiteinch and Maryhill.
Glasgow Life, an arms-length city council operation, lost £38m last year due to lockdown and its estimated income for 2020/21 is around £6.4m. An agreed council funding deal will see Glasgow Life receive a guaranteed £100m for the next four years to open 90 out of its 171 venues. Without further funding, they say they cannot reopen any more venues. Around 500 jobs will go at the organisation over a five year period.
This crisis point has led The Herald to launch A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign calling on both Scottish and UK governments to agree a new funding deal for Glasgow’s assets and venues of national and international significance.
We are also seeking commitment from both governments to work with the city to achieve this and Glasgow’s cultural assets and collections of national and international significance are recognised and funded at national level.
Yesterday our campaign was backed by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar who said: “SNP austerity and the failure of Susan Aitken’s Glasgow administration means we face a situation where the people of my home city will be denied access to their own cultural heritage.”
A spokesman for Glasgow Life said re-opening dates for the majority, 28, of Glasgow’s 33 public libraries were indicated in April as part of the £100m budget they were given by Glasgow City Council this year which is being used in full reopening more than 90 venues across the city.
He added: “Right now 22 libraries are open, and four more are due to reopen in the coming weeks with Shettleston Library expected to close for refurbishment once Parkhead Library reopens and two more are due to reopen in 2022 after refurbishments are complete. The cost of operating the remaining libraries currently without opening dates would be £1.2 million a year.”