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Massive decline in visitors at Bradford Central Library
The true impact of the closure of Bradford Central Library has emerged 12 months after it partially shut when it was condemned as a fire risk.
The library is undergoing a £900,000 revamp to make it safe after a check branded it unsafe, with the staircase possibly acting as a chimney in the event of fire.
But since its partial closure with only two floors open since October, 2011, visitor numbers have dropped from 17,284 in October, 2011, to 14,893 in September, 2012, and the number of staff have halved. But from October, 2010, to October, 2012, visitor numbers dropped from 24,278 to 16,723 Library staff have been reduced from 32 full-time staff in 2010-11 with a £695,000 wage bill, to 15 full-time staff in 2011-12 with a wage bill of £438,000.
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council’s executive member for culture, said that the closure had a big impact, but said visitor numbers dropping was the sign of a national trend with national numbers of library users dropping from 322 million in 2010 to 313 million last year.
She said that the staff no longer working at the library had taken voluntary redundancy or been redeployed elsewhere.
“Everyone thought it was closed for months when it was actually only closed for four days,” she said.
“The wage bill has gone down because we have reduced the staffing, and there have been no compulsory redundancies.
“But we have casual staff in as when we need them. There will also be self service issue terminals for people in the new library.
“When these terminals were introduced in Keighley up to 80 per cent of visitors go through them. That frees up staff to help people.
“The library will be closed for 20 weeks as it is quite a big job. In these hard times this is a significant investment in the library and it is important that we have a library in the centre of Bradford.”
Coun Hinchcliffe said that the national drop was because of the internet and the rise in the use of e-books.
From Monday, January 7, a mobile library will be in place from 9am to 5pm each weekday for customers to return and borrow books in the new location.
A spokesman for Bradford Council said alternative locations were also in place for reading groups, work clubs and Saturday storytime sessions.
And staff will be redeployed to other libraries throughout the district while the refurbishment takes place. People wanting to use the archive service during the refurbishment can visit its new Leeds searchroom from Friday, January 25, until the Bradford office reopens.
Visits to the searchroom, in Nepshaw Lane South, Morley, will be by appointment only.
Library users can visit Bradford.gov.uk/libraries for the latest information.