Bestselling authors back campaign to prevent Lichfield Library move

A group of bestselling novelists have added their weight to the campaign to save Lichfield Library.

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

The Friary building which currently houses Lichfield Library. Pic: Elliott Brown

Staffordshire County Council has drawn up plans to transfer the library from The Friary to St Mary’s in the Market Square, with its former home to be converted into private residential accomodation.

But a petition has been drawn up by the Lichfield and Burntwood Green Party – which has now been backeed by authors Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, and Joanne Harris.

Val McDermid

Val McDermid

They have been joined by children’s writers Michael Rosen, Oliver Jeffers and Francesca Simon who have shared the petition via social media.

Scottish crime writer Val McDermid wrote to the @SaveLichLibrary campaigners saying there were “few things more important than libraries”.

The support of the authors comes after a weekend when the group collected signatures from members of the public in Lichfield city centre.

“The response on Saturday from the people of Lichfield was staggering,” said campaign spokesperson Simon Partridge. “We had 1,187 sign in just under five-hours. That’s four signatures a minute!

“What we heard from people time and time again during the day was a feeling of total outrage that the county council has taken decisions regarding the library and The Friary building without any kind of public consultation.

Simon Partridge collecting signatures in Lichfield

Simon Partridge collecting signatures in Lichfield

“There are a lot of very angry people in Lichfield who feel that councillors have made these plans in secret driven by financial motives rather than the best interests of Lichfield residents.”

Added to those already collected online the 1,187 names amassed on Saturday take the petition’s total number of signatures to over 3,000. Once it reaches 5,000 it will be presented to the county council for debate.

“The people of Lichfield deserve to have their voices heard on this matter and we’re determined to make sure the county council listens,” said Simon.

Staffordshire County Council has denied that the discussions over the library have been taken in private.

Cllr Ian Parry said: “Our review of buildings has been in the public domain for some time and, given our proposals in Lichfield, will not only allow residents to benefit from a more central ground floor library, but will also safeguard the future of The Friary building, which is need of almost £1.4million of repairs.

“It is a little surprising that the Green Party should suddenly object.”

Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

10 Comments

  1. Mat Hayward

    15th March, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    Plans have been in the public domain. When did you release your plans to the Mercury or Lichfield Live? What does the public domain actually mean? This is why we are demanding a full, open and public debate about it. After all, it’s our library, not yours.

  2. Sceptic

    15th March, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I think we should flog off the library to the highest bidder, why not? Then maybe a school building or two, a bit of a hospital, perhaps a few doctor’s surgeries, the municipal tip. Go on flog it all off, all to be done in the public domain of course

  3. mike

    15th March, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    If its such a great deal for Lichfield, why hasn’t cllr. Parry been advertising the fact himself? Letting us all know what sterling work he’s done on our behalf.

  4. FiveSpiresLive

    15th March, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    In fairness Staffs CC have been inviting views on the future of County libraries for over two years. It’s the same old story, ignore the consultation process then be outraged that a decision has been made and sign a petition. The consultation process has been covered in the local media.
    The novelty is that the library could be moved to St Mary’s. That is a proposal that couldn’t have been anticipated in the consultation process and so should now be open to further comment.
    There will clearly be a reduction in floor space but in the digital age what will actually be lost?
    In terms of accessibly St Mary’s wins. How often do you randomly drop into the library on a Saturday? You may do more often if it was in the centre of town.
    The real fight should be to retain the fabric of the Friary building, regardless of use, and to retain all proceeds of sale for the benefit of the citizens of Lichfield in the spirit of the original donor.

  5. Chris Williams

    16th March, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Five Spires. Please point us in the direction of the consultation on the sale?

    We’ve had consultations on the mobile library and the record office but not the outright sale and relocation of the library.

  6. Thornton

    16th March, 2016 at 11:08 am

    What really is the problem here?

    Is it that the building is being sold causing people to feel like they have no control over its future? If so then they should feel comforted that as a listed building the look of it will be kept intact.

    If people are concerned that the library as in the actual books are being moved to a smaller building then surely people should take comfort knowing it’s not simply closing like lots of libraries are and that it’s moving to the centre of the City. This is an incredible location and really only a stones throw from It’s current location. The traditional library is being phased out as they’re just not being used enough to justify keeping them open. Besides, we have most of the worlds knowledge available at the click of a button. Lichfield library cannot compete with that.

    If there are other worries, I’d really like to know.

  7. When it's gone, it's gone

    16th March, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    I was disgusted the last time I was in the library, there were loads of excited children. They were talking, playing, laughing and reading.

    Surely, they can sit at home, on their own and use their I-pads and webcams. No need for human interaction, no need to meet people make friends and all of this in a fantastic location.

    They have story time for the under 5’s, what an awful thing to be doing. They really should be pushing kids to sit in front of screens and never lift a real book.

    Maybe we should have a look at selling Beacon Park. Would be a nice location for some more unaffordable housing to be built.

    I would rather this building stay for the people of Lichfield, rather than in the hands of Buy to Let investors, laughing all the way to the bank.

  8. Mat Hayward

    16th March, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Consistently proponents of selling talk of the library simply being a book store. Schools are.invited to the library for science fayres, for historical enactments, to meet authors. Mothers use them to attend toddler reading groups. The unemployed use the Internet access to apply for jobs. Students from the university use it to study for their degrees. St Mary’s is a fraction of the size and already has a function. How will the two marry. Who will own the space? At the moment, we the people own it. So in 15 years time,who is to say that the diocese won’t sell the building to Wetherspoons- then where will we be?

  9. AgitatorofPeople

    16th March, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    “We have most of the worlds knowledge at the click of a button” Err no we don’t Google ran an engineering exercise on how many books have been published, without government documents and archive material they estimate 130 million books have been published and even that is probably an underestimate.

    At the present time there are 25 million online, and alot of the more recent titles require a subscription and access to the internet, but not everyone wants the “latest blockbuster” they want engineering and science volumes, obscure local history, local art and literature the very things that make us unique in our British culture. And libraries are not underused because of technology, that is a fallacy, in countries like the USA in high tech areas, libraries are booming, because they are invested in, and they benefit economically by the output of the people that use them.

    Here is a link to a great article by John Kay an Economist and Financial Times writer who knows alot more than those proposing to sell off the library for “financial gain” about the real value of retaining such good services as those provided by the present Lichfield Library.

    http://www.johnkay.com/2010/08/11/a-good-economist-knows-the-true-value-of-the-arts

  10. Thornton

    17th March, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Either way. If the library should be the hub of the City, neither an old school or a church would be suitable. I like the idea of having a huge library but we’re in Lichfield. We’re not a university town, have an aged population and are pretty small and isolated. I could understand a big investment in somewhere like Birmingham but Luchfield would be a waste. At the moment anyway.

    Also, when people want to know something, how many go to Lichfield library to find the information? I know where I turn to.

    Also, Old friary school IS just a building which houses books. Its a poor site just like any building would be which hasn’t been designed specifically to house a library. I’m not say get rid of the library or libraries, of course I’m not. Just that there is no issue here.

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