THIS Thursday is World Book Day, a chance for readers and authors to celebrate the importance of libraries in local communities.

Our ancestors knew the value of lending libraries. Darlington’s magnificent Crown Street library was a gift to the people of the town from Quaker philanthropist Edward Pease, but now it faces closure – the victim of a cost-cutting drive.

Darlington Borough Council, cognizant of its legal obligation to provide a library service of some sort, plans to roll up the Crown Street library as well as the branch library in Cockerton and the mobile library into the town’s Dolphin Centre leisure complex.

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The Northern Echo:
Cockerton Library, in Darlington

Paul Wildsmith, Darlington’s director of neighbourhood services and resources, who has the unenviable task of maintaining council services on a ridiculously tight budget, told councillors last week that the new library would be a big improvement.

We beg to differ. The Dolphin Centre is a fine swimming pool and municipal sports complex. It is not, and never will be, a purpose-built lending library.

The Dolphin Centre is a sports hub. It is bright and noisy. Visitors are greeted by pop music played over the public address system and sounds of swimmers having fun. It is the antithesis of Crown Street library where generations of children and adults have studied in quiet contemplation.

Levering a library into the Dolphin Centre will cost Darlington Borough Council a considerable amount of money – cash that could be used to sustain the Crown Street library.

To date, the authority has not proposed any alternative to closure. Has it, for instance, explored a partnership deal with a heritage organisation or a community group?

Darlington councillors must not close the book on Crown Street library before they have examined every option.