HUNDREDS of residents joined a public meeting to discuss the future of two libraries.

On Monday (March 11) evening, hundreds of residents attended the Red Rose Club in Ulverston for a meeting to discuss the closures of Ulverston and Roose libraries.

The meeting was organised by councillor Michelle Scrogham who said residents 'do not want' a library service to replace their town libraries. 

Cllr Scrogram, the mayor of Ulverston and Labour's candidate for the Furness seat at the next general election, said: "Libraries are not just any available space with a bookshelf, the libraries were purpose-built to house a children’s library, an IT provision and community groups, and designed with a layout for education and studying.

"Expecting people to be able to study with a band playing next door is nonsense, and children who don’t have a safe space to study at home will be hugely disadvantaged by these closures. We have some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country, so these libraries are essential to help level inequalities."

Westmorland and Furness Council held a meeting at The Coro on the same night to discuss the closures and residents gathered outside to protest, said Cllr Scrogham.

READ MORE: 'A relief' - New temporary solution amid town's library frustration

Cllr Scrogham said: "Community groups who regularly used the library buildings have been left homeless. Ulverston library on Kings Road is Ulverston’s last available community space that is free and available to all, it’s vital that these spaces are protected."

Ulverston's library has been shut since last year after electrical faults were discovered with the council having to provide a pop-up replacement elsewhere.

A full library service is due to be in place on March 25 at the Coronation Hall, replacing provision being spread across two sites.

The existing temporary pop-up arrangements in the Ante Room in The Coro and in the nearby Indoor Market Hall will be transferring to the Supper Room, creating a single location for the temporary library.

The council said the inclusion of the temporary library at The Coro and extended opening hours has seen an increase in footfall in the building, with people visiting the library and inquiring about performances and tickets for Coro events to bus timetables and bus pass information.

The council is currently undertaking a detailed appraisal to look at all the different options for reinstating a permanent library service in Ulverston.

Councillor Peter Thornton, cabinet member for assets and highways, said: “Which ever option is eventually chosen, it will involve significant cost, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds of public money needing to be invested. We therefore need to make sure we get this right.

“We know that the King’s Road building, which is now more than 60 years old, would require considerable investment to make it fit-for-purpose, with not only the electrics but the heating system and fabric of the building requiring significant attention. That level of work doesn’t come cheap and it’s incorrect for people to suggest we only need to spend a few thousand pounds to ‘patch-up’ the electrics.

“There is simply no quick-fix solution that would provide a safe, sustainable service in that current building for our customers and staff. It requires wholesale investment and when we are considering spending such large amounts of public money we are obliged to think about things carefully, look at all of our options and have the evidence to support our decisions.

“This is especially important in the current climate, where public finances are very tight and so many councils are struggling, and we make no apologies for considering and balancing our options to ensure we invest wisely and in the best long-term interests of our communities.’’

Cllr Scrogham said the fate of Roose Library was 'baffling'.

Police confirmed this week no further action was being taken after youths were arrested on suspicion of arson.

Cllr Scrogham said: "The ensuing damage should have been a relatively simple solution of an insurance claim to get the building back in working order, yet here we are almost a year later and no sign of any work starting."The lack of any visible movement on repairs is now causing concern that this is being used as a convenient way to close the Library at Roose permanently. In an area with high deprivation, libraries are a lifeline. A week is a long time in a child’s formative years, but a year of disruption as we saw during Covid will leave lasting damage."