Library is here to stay
Wigan Council has sought to reassure residents about the future of Atherton's library after fears were raised it could be about to close.
Regular visitors to the York Street library and a group set up to support the facility said they have become increasingly worried reducing the opening hours is a prelude to the service disappearing altogether.
The support group also raised fears that when Atherton’s services move into a new community hub at the old town hall the library will only be a desk for picking up and dropping off books ordered online.
However, Wigan Council says it is committed to keeping a library in Atherton and will consult with the community on finding the best way forward.
Atherton resident Harry White spoke out about the library, saying he felt the building was closed at most of the times when residents would actually want to visit and the service in the town was poor compared to that in neighbouring Tyldesley.
Mr White, of Upton Road, said: “We don’t tend to go to the library because we don’t know when it’s open, and that looks like a road to decline to me.
“There’s no late night opening and it’s not open on Saturdays. If you are working you can’t go in the evening and that’s the problem.
“Why can’t we have the opening hours of Tyldesley Library? I’ve also just enrolled on a computer course and I have to go to Leigh Library for that when they used to be run in Atherton.
“It’s like the old British Rail tactic. They put services on at times when there’s no need for them and then say there’s no customers so it will be shut down.”
Atherton Library Support Group secretary Mabel Jones said the enthusiasts trying to promote the facility shared many of Mr White’s concerns.
She said: “The plan is to push us into the town hall which won’t be a library, it will be a facility where you order your books online.
“A lot of our ladies and men don’t do that. They want a library but there won’t be room for all the books in the town hall. We’ve been trying to keep it open for about five years now. They cut the hours and thought nobody would come in but we do have a lot of things going on.
“I also think the hours have been cut in a specific way. The library was very much used in the morning but they’ve all been cut. There’s only the library left in this building now but it’s part of the heritage of our town and it’s very important to a lot of people.”
However, the local authority has strongly rebuffed many of the claims made by Mr White and the support group and tried to reassure local residents there are no plans to axe Atherton Library or make it a largely online service.
Lesley O’Halloran, Wigan Council’s assistant director for customer services, said: “We are fully committed to library provision throughout the borough and Atherton is no different.
“Any changes to libraries will be undertaken following public consultation as is the statutory requirement.
“The council has no plans to remove library provision from Atherton and has no intention to remove traditional library services with books on shelves.”
“Wigan Council will look to enhance service provision wherever possible and our communities will play a key part in this. Any public consultation will shape the library offer in Atherton as it will throughout the borough.
“As part of the Deal for the Future our aspiration is to have joined up services at the heart of communities. A vibrant library and cultural offer is a central part of this.”
To find out more, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/Council/Strategies-Plans-and-Policies/Deal-for-the-future.aspx