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City leader takes to Twitter to say 'all libraries will reopen'

Library campaigners say the leader's use of Twitter is 'inappropriate and insulting'

The leader of Glasgow city council has suggested Whiteinch library will reopen in its current building.

Susan Aitken took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to update people about the libraries that currently remain closed.

She said all Glasgow libraries will reopen - and then tweeted details about work to refurbish Whiteinch.

She said: “It’s always been the case that all the libraries will reopen … ”

The posts took campaigners by surprise - and led to a flurry of exchanges with the leader as people sought more details.

The tweets came shortly after the latest ‘read-in’ protests at Whiteinch, Langside and Maryhill libraries.

More than 100 people attended the event at Whiteinch Library. 

All the libraries were on a list of 59 city venues that were not scheduled to reopen after lockdown.

That list was only revealed after Glasgow West End Today asked.

Ms Aitken took to Twitter early afternoon to answer a campaigner for Langside Library.

Read-in protests have bee held at libraries in recent weeks. Photo: Save Whiteinch Library
Read-in protests have bee held at libraries in recent weeks. Photo: Save Whiteinch Library

SA. “Langside Library will reopen in August once essential refurbishment work has been completed (there has been water ingress, which has been fixed but the building needs to dry out and sections of floor & ceiling replaced). 

“There has never been any question of it not reopening.”

That response was welcomed by Green city councillor Christie Mearns, who said: “That’s great news, thank you. What about Whiteinch library? 

“The proposal to relocate it to Scotstoun leisure centre is extremely concerning given how inaccessible it is, and how valued the library is to the local community.”

SA: “It’s not news, Christy, it’s always been the case that all the libraries will reopen, as you are aware. 

“Whiteinch Library building needs much more extensive refurbishment. 

“An alternative service will be provided for the community while that takes place.”

CM: “Thank you. That wasn’t at all clear, as is quite obvious from the number of Save groups which have popped up since the Glasgow Life bombshell dropped a few weeks ago. 

“Glad to hear it, though - this definitely needs to be communicated more clearly.”

Whiteinch resident Ali Howard Allan picked up the Twitter thread to get further details about the plans.

Thank you. That wasn’t at all clear, as is quite obvious from the number of Save groups which have popped up since the Glasgow Life bombshell dropped a few weeks ago

Cllr Christie Mearns

“Hi Susan, this is really great to hear! Do you have a projected date for #WhiteinchLibrary reopening, once any necessary works have been completed? 

“My children can’t wait to get back to their local library.” 

SA: “Not yet, unfortunately. There needs to be a bit more work to scope out the full extent of refurbishment required on the building. 

“It needs about £2m worth of intervention so it’s a big job. 

“That’s why we’ve sought to provide an alternative service in the meantime.”

AHA: “Great, when is the pop-up service opening?”

SA: “Plan is by the end of August. I understand there’s work going on to fit out some new mobile libraries as we speak!”

AHA: “Brilliant, thank you. Looking forward to hearing more on the refurbishment. 

“Is Glasgow Life going to cease looking for alternative tenants now that there’s plans for refurbishment?”

Local people fear for their library service. Photo: Save Whiteinch Library
Local people fear for their library service. Photo: Save Whiteinch Library

SA: “Not necessarily. It’s not a particularly well used library compared to others in the city (bottom 10) so co-locating with other services could help usage to pick up as well as giving access to heritage grants etc the Council doesn’t have.”

AHA: “Thanks Susan. So you are planning co-location, with another tenant in the existing library building? (Sorry for all the questions!)”

AHA:  “Too early to say just now, sorry. But work to determine all of that is underway. 

“The biggest immediate challenge is funding the building renovations.”

Glasgow Life chairman and deputy council leader David McDonald apologised last month after admitting the messaging around the fate of venues had been badly handled.

Campaigners said the Twitter exchanges provided new details they had not been previously aware of.

Original plans for the affected library services appeared to be relocation to alternative centres - in the case of Maryhill and Whiteinch, to nearby leisure centres.

In a newspaper column two weeks ago, Ms Aitken also assured readers “there were no plans to shut any of Glasgow’s libraries”.

However, the same article in the Glasgow Times spoke about relocating those services in Maryhill and Whiteinch - and finding new uses for the present buildings.

It did not mention refurbishment or indicate that services might return to some of the buildings - as she did in her recent tweets.

Meanwhile, councillors will next week debate a motion that calls on the Scottish Government to provide more funding to permit the opening of all Glasgow Life venues.

Not yet, unfortunately. There needs to be a bit more work to scope out the full extent of refurbishment required on the building. It needs about £2m worth of intervention so it’s a big job

Cllr Susan Aitken

The motion is being put by Langside councillor Archie Graham (Lab) and seconded by local Victoria Park Cllr, Maggie McTernan (Lab).

Last month, Ms Aitken took to Twitter to detail plans for the co-location of library services to Maryhill.

A spokesman for Save Whiteinch Library said the leader’s use of Twitter was “inappropriate and insulting to the people of Whiteinch and surrounding areas”.

"The Community Council (and our Cllrs) have been trying for weeks to find out the hard details of Glasgow Council's plans.  

“Despite frequent requests via email and letter, no attempt has been made by Susan Aitken or her officials to answer our communications with concrete responses via official channels. 

“Instead, we have received a series of statements via Twitter and other mass-media, which have been inconsistent over time.

“Additionally, only a small proportion of the Whiteinch community will be on Twitter.  

“This form of communication is inappropriate for speaking to local people.

“Until we get unambiguous answers from Cllr Aitken, through official channels, our campaign has to continue.”  

The spokesman said the leader might want to consider coming to the next Whiteinch Community Council meeting (24 May) and “personally explaining her plans for the library to community representatives”.

Glasgow Life, which operates the city’s leisure and culture services, has seen income plummet as a result of the pandemic.

Emergency funding from Glasgow city council is allowing it to reopen more than 90 venues - including landmark attractions such as Kelvingrove and Riverside museums.

A council spokesman said: “Glasgow Life confirmed some weeks ago that Langside Library would reopen in August, following essential refurbishment work.

" In the case of Whiteinch, it is well established that extensive improvements are required – and, although some detailed work is still required, £2m is the most recent estimate.

"It has also been acknowledged by the council that that one potential route to securing investment in this and other buildings would be through increased community involvement and the co-location of services.”

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