Knowledge is Power: Save Whiteinch Public Library

There is a light on a Whiteinch library, G14. The gates are locked, and have been for over a year, but from time to time, there is a light on. There’s smoke from the chimney occasionally too, a wee hint of life on the corner of a Glasgow street that has been dead for a long time.

Across the road is the old Burgh Hall, closed since 2006. Redbrick sandstone, with coats of arms chiselled into the rock, given over to corrugated shutters and sprouting vegetation from its former glory.

The adjacent park, one of Glasgow’s most beautiful, provides the backdrop to this neglect. A vast swathe of green, hemmed in by a scar of expressway, constantly busy, which one must bow down to, head lowered through the underpass to reach an escape from the noise, the traffic, and the palpable reminder that the pillars of community; the library, the hall, are being picked apart, one by one.

In our society, nothing highlights the gap between elected officialdom, and the communities they purport to represent than the closure of libraries. For Scotland, a country that defines itself on its contribution to world literature and an education system that has treasured popular literacy since the Reformation, the closure of public libraries is nothing short of the ultimate failure of government; local and national alike.

Yet here we are. Whiteinch is to lose its library.

If we nod to the the government’s SIMD index, a way of ‘scoring inequality’ with the help of an interactive colour-coded map, an aping caricature of Charles Booth’s 1898-9 effort, a damning indictment that shows the way that poverty is measured and actioned upon has barely change in over a century, then it becomes clear that Whiteinch is very much what the inactive, talking heads across all media outlets would refer to as ‘deprived’. An apparently unenviable set of results across the board; high numbers of benefits claims, overcrowding, poor health, and a relatively high crime rate, is offset by a great mark in its geographical access score, something which translates as a good location with easy access to big retail centres and schools.

For a council reeling from the fiscal effects of the pandemic, a pandemic which has apparently hampered their ability to do even the most basic of tasks such as rubbish collection, the inevitable prospect of selling the Whiteinch library building to developers is too good an opportunity to miss. Walking distance to the West End, with Victoria Park on its doorstep, and the added caveat of being in Jordanhill School’s catchment area, the actions of the council become transparent.

The same is happening up in Maryhill with their library, another prime piece of real estate that is ripe for plucking, regardless of the residents’ needs or wants. The poverty accrued from years of neglect and austerity, and capped off by the current health crisis, is easily swept aside with the prospect of big investment from private enterprise.

The reason behind such dehumanising initiatives such as the SIMD index is to tackle poverty in the areas that need it most. Ironically, it seems that the access to library services actually improves the scores, thus the removal of a community library amidst such a plethora of numerical neglect reveals the SIMD index as the phoney act of tokenism and think-tankery that it is.

The endless monotony of a pandemic has actually seen a huge increase in reading, one that has seen the coffers of private enterprise and big publishing lined nicely in the absence of library services. Such a boost in reading should be the base from which libraries can thrive, not close. Secondly, the pandemic has shown that, for better or worse, we as a society are completely reliant on technology and access to the Internet. In an area in which Internet access is limited to those who can pay privately for the privilege, the closure of the library marks a great two fingers to the residents who continue to make use of the service, continuing to stand outside the stricken building in order to check emails or use the web.

Whiteinch is a community that is in the process of seeing its services stripped, a social scarification that paves the way to private development and a complete sidelining of its current residents. We as residents, like the great yards of South Street, are scheduled for scrap. Geographical victims of the Clydeside Expressway and the Clyde Tunnel, the community has already been physically carved up. The old adage of divide and conquer is no overstatement here, as Whiteinch stands, ironically given the road situation, at a crossroads.

It is time to organise to save the Whiteinch Public Library, only community action will bring about positive change for the area.

There is a petition at 38 degrees which can be signed here. 

Comments (8)

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  1. Ken Coutts says:

    I bet the council leaders, don’t take a cut in salaries
    Not forgetting their gold standard pensions.
    Downsize the workforce and close a few places, feather in their caps for imaginative management.
    Perhaps the odd kickback from contractors, holiday in Spain/ France mibbes.

  2. Robert John Mellish says:

    Please join our campaign on Facebook to Save Whiteinch Library.

  3. Daniel Raphael says:

    Each article I read at Bella reinforces the satisfaction I feel at having supported its recent fund drive. Wonderful, humane values describing and dedicated to our lives–the lives of the 99%. Please continue–as I know you will.

  4. Pub Bore says:

    Glasgow Life’s statement –

    “Glasgow Life is exploring how the community library provision can be supported in another venue as part of the city’s approach to community hubs.

    “Anyone wishing to indicate their interest in using Whiteinch Library building can do so through Glasgow City Council’s People Make Glasgow Communities programme.”

    – illustrates the absurdity of the city council’s ‘approach to community hubs’.

    Communities evolve democratically from the bottom up; they can’t be engineered from the top down through a centrally managed ‘communities programme’. The latter is municipal socialism at its worst.

    So, Glasgow is depriving Whiteinch of local access to its centrally managed library and information services by relocating them to a ‘community hub’ outside of the neighbourhood. This opens up all sorts of opportunities for real community development. The question is: what independent neighbourhood provision can the local community develop as an alternative to its dependence on Glasgow Life?

  5. Wul says:

    Yup. That’s the model.

    Sell off all the nice, conveniently located, sandstone public buildings to developers and move the ungrateful punters to a “hub” somewhere on the periphery.
    The “hub” itself, of course, is a tax-dodging financial instrument to save VAT and rates payments on council offices. An empty, soulless steel and concrete barn where common-good resources are heavily gate kept by underpaid, outsourced clerks.

    Thus the people of the neighbourhood must re-shape their lives to fit in with the distorting gravitational field of finance. The council (and therefore community) eventually owns no actual land or property, nothing real. Every asset is converted into a long-term liability and income source for financiers.

    I mean, have a read of this drivelling nonsense from “Hub West Scotland”:

  6. Daniel Lamont says:

    The decision to close and sell off this library is an indication of the extent to which the SNP and Labour embody Thatcherism. The late Shirley Williams once commented that Margaret Thatcher not only did not understand the notion of the public good and the common realm, she derided it. In the attack on this library and in Edinburgh, where I live, the commodification of the Princes Street Gardens, the Councils have also shown their contempt for the common good. First of all, libraries are valuable community assets where people can borrow books both for leisure reading but also for the continuance of learning and self-education and also they are places where people can meet. Professional librarians have been present to guide and encourage those who use libraries. We live in a divided society but institutions like libraries are important for the part they play in social cohesion, especially since the near collapse of institutions such as churches, trade unions, local sports groups has meant that people don’t have the same places to gather together for a purpose. Moreover, the orginal builders had a sense that public buildings should be handsome and dignified and built to give a sense of worth to their users. Dreary community hubs do none of these things. We now have predatory developers whose only motivationis to make large amounts of money at the expense of local communities and, sadly, they have the ear of both Holyrood and local councils who have in many ways lost their moral compass.

    Ken Coutts refers to Council Leaders’s salaries. To be honest, I don’t begrudge Susan Aiken her salary of £53,567 – Glasgow is the biggest local authority in Scotland and the job of leader is a demanding one and it needs to be done well. What is objectionable are the enormous salaries paid to senior officials. Annemarie O’Donnell, Glasgow City Council, Chief Executive, is reported as earning a salary of £175,000 which, with expenses and pension contributions totals £215,000. * The First Minister earns £157,861 which includes her MSP salary , for what is surely a more demanding job. Presumably it is senior council officials who are advising the elected Members of the council about the Whiteinch Library and I often wonder how they are held accountable. Does their advice come surrounded by a lot of management-speak and jargon-ridden paper work and do they offer elected councillors a choice of actions or just one, which thereby becomes an instruction? I think the role of senior salaried council officials is overdue for scrutiny.


  7. SleepingDog says:

    I was surprised to read that “Scotland [is] a country that defines itself on its contribution to world literature”. This innovative angle brings up all sorts of interesting gerrymandering-the-border scenarios, and sadly provides yet further motivation for annexation and colonial expansion.

    Anyway, I am somewhat familiar with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, and this article contains a horrendous hatchet-job on a data-driven project that reveals important structural and systematic patterns in deprivation. Incidentally, SIMD is relative, so there will always be a most- and least-deprived zone. Since government policy, central and local, has to deal with generalities, trends, work out possible causation from correlations in data, and democratic best practices require transparency, presenting this data freely and in accessible formats online to the public must be a Good Thing. If the SNP were seen to be diverting public resources to winnable seats rather than areas of relatively high multiple deprivation, then this pattern would become all the more obvious with SIMD. Not only that, but other bodies can also integrate the standardised data with their own, so that (for example) Further Education Colleges can direct more recruitment effort to local areas of higher deprivation if these are underrepresented in the student body. And if any data appears incorrect, it can be publicly-challenged.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      ‘Surprised’? Really?

      That Scotland consistently punches above its weight in the world of literature (along with science, engineering, education, landscape, beef, whisky, etc.) has long been one of the unique selling points of Tory nationalism.

      Wha’s like us, eh?

      Of course, according to Tory nationalists, Scotland’s excellence among nations only postdates the Union. Prior to that, it was at best only a minor player on the world stage, a failing state that occupied a land far away, at the northernmost extremity of the Atlantic archipelago.

      Flag-waving Scottish exceptionalism is indeed a product of Empire – part of its colonial narrative.

      ‘Wha’s like us?’ FFS!

      This patriotic ‘Tartan Army’ exceptionalism is precisely the mental slavery from which we, as a nation, need to liberate ourselves.

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