ESSEX County Council has started a consultation on the future of the libraries across the county. Harlow’s county councillors are encouraging residents to take part in the consultation, to give their views and help determine the shape of the library service in Harlow in the future.
“Although usage has fallen significantly, libraries do provide an important service to communities,” explained Cllr Michael Hardware. “The way people read and use libraries may have changed significantly and perhaps the form of the libraries need to be reviewed to reflect that, but they do provide a vital service to many in the community.
“The four county councillors in Harlow, together with Rob Halfon MP, will fight to retain the three libraries threatened with closure, and encourage residents to make their views known to their county councillor and through the consultation.”
The consultation follows a strategic review of the use of libraries across the county. Whereas the demand for e-books, e-magazines and e-audio rose has risen by 205% over the last five years, from 61,000 loans to 186,000, there are 31% fewer people using Essex libraries now than there were in 2008 – over 100,000 less users – and loans of books and other items are down by 52%. These trends are not exclusive to Essex, all areas of the country are experiencing the same thing.
People are reading and using libraries in different ways, and the trends experienced are likely to continue. With continually changing technology this strategic review of libraries and their use was inevitable – our libraries are based on a model which was created in Victorian times.
There is a statutory duty on Essex County Council under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. “to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof”. The strategic review has categorised all libraries in tiers: tier 1 and tier 2 are libraries required to fulfil that statutory duty, whereas tier 3 and tier 4 libraries are not required as part of that duty. Tier 3 libraries, such as Great Parndon, will be supported by Essex County if an alternative community-run solution can be found. Tier 4 libraries, which includes Tye Green and Mark Hall, will not be supported but could still have community-run solutions. The main library in Harlow town centre and the library in Old Harlow are tier 1 and tier 2 respectively and are not under threat.
e-Library services and online services will remain available to all, and the home library and mobile library services will continue for anyone unable to get to a library. More than 95% of the Essex population will be unaffected by the tier 4 closures, with 89% of Essex library users will be unaffected.
The consultation, which runs for 12 weeks until Wednesday 20 February 2019, has already received 9,000 responses and 400 offers to take-over existing libraries. Residents can take part in the consultation online (www.esex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation) or by phone (0345 603 7639). Paper versions of the consultation (including large print and EasyRead) can be requested by phone, from a library or via your county councillor.
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