Hartlepool loses two libraries in national decline

Hartlepool Central Library
Hartlepool Central Library
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Hartlepool has lost two libraries since 2010, says latest report.

An investigation by the BBC has highlighted the national decline in libraries since that time.

Eight thousand jobs have been lost as nearly 350 libraries have closed since 2010 across the country.

Hartlepool has seen two of its seven libraries close over that period, but there are no proposals to close any this year.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faces the “greatest crisis in its history”.

The BBC English Regions data journalism team has compiled data from 207 authorities responsible for running libraries through the Freedom of Information Act.

It shows 343 libraries have closed since 2010. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings.

The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut and a further 111 closures are planned this year.

A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run.

Mr Gibbons, who wrote Blue Peter Book Award winner Shadow of the Minotaur, said: “Opening hours are slashed, book stocks reduced.

“Volunteers are no longer people who supplement full time staff but their replacements. This constitutes the hollowing out of the service. We are in dangerous territory.”

Librarian Ian Anstice, who runs the Public Libraries News website in his spare time, said the cuts were “without precedent”.

He said: “Councils learnt early on how unpopular simply closing libraries is so they have had to cut the vital service in other, less obvious ways.

“It can come across in many forms: reduced opening hours, reduced book fund, reduced maintenance and reduced staffing.

“In all its incarnations, it is harmful to the service, creating the risk that once-loyal users of libraries will come away disappointed and stop using them.