I notice from Monday’s Express & Star that Walsall council – fresh from their self congratulation over the promise not to close any libraries ‘…in this financial year’, seem to be tentatively floating the idea of moving Walsall Wood’s Library into Oak Park Leisure Centre. This really ought to be stepped on before it becomes a serious proposal. To be honest, I’m quite nonplussed by the very suggestion.
Walsall Wood’s current library, located on the corner of Coppice Road and High Street, is housed the old Neighbourhood Office, renovated and refurbished at the cost of well over £100,000 in 2007. It is an excellent facility, and one of the more modern libraries in the Borough. The council made a killing in 2006 by selling the old library site opposite Oak Park to developers, and relocating to the then vacant council property the library occupies now. Walsall Wood got a great new library, developers got their hands on prime development land and the council trousered a sizeable wad. Now it seems they’re just about to destroy all the benefits the village gained. For what, exactly?
There is no space free in Oak Park for a library, so one has to assume that to move there, the library will have to shrink, or the services provided by the recreation centre will, or a mixture of both. The fabric of Oak Park is crumbling, and desperately needs renovation. This dark and dingy building has little natural light – fine for playing squash or bench-pressing, not so conducive to reading. It’s a fair walk from the main road and the centre of Walsall Wood, especially for the elderly. And is a recreation centre really a place for quiet, uninterrupted study? I think not.
This bizarre, penny-pinching scheme will result in the loss of a fine facility, recently provided at great expense – cash which will have been wasted. It offers no benefit to the folk of the area, but would allow councillors to effectively destroy the service, screw over the service users yet still claim to have kept their word. This is a sly act and needs watching carefully.
I wonder how Walsall Wood Councillor Mike Flower, who put so much effort into creating our wonderful community library, and then getting the railings and landscaping around it, feels to have his work snubbed in this way?
I was asked recently why I didn’t celebrate Walsall Council’s statement on the future of the library services. The simple answer was that I didn’t feel I could trust it. This seems to be borne out in reality.