SOLE to host public discussion on new strategy for libraries

News / Mon 6th Dec 2021 at 08:14am

CAMPAIGN group Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) is to host an online open discussion forum about the new strategy for libraries in the county. The event via Zoom and Facebook live takes place on Thursday 16th December from half seven, and the group says all will be welcome. 

The campaign, which organised large protests across the county and attracted much celebrity support from the likes of Strictly’s Len Goodman, to Three Lions‘ David Baddiel, as well as authors like Tracey Beaker writer Jacqueline Wilson, was instrumental in keeping the county’s libraries open back in 2019. 

It is now calling on the Deputy Council Leader Louise McKinley, who also has cabinet responsibility for libraries, to assure residents plans for what it called “charity shop libraries” have been “quietly shelved”.
Essex County Council published a new draft strategy last month and opened up a consultation into the plans.

“In truth the best thing about the new strategy is what’s not in it”, said a SOLE spokesperson. “What’s actually is in it appears to be a number of fine words, but it has no real substance on how any aims will be achieved. In particular we are pleased to see no mention whatsoever of so-called ‘community libraries’ – or more appropriately charity shop libraries – after this plan had been central to the previous strategy. It meant staff were to be got rid of, library buildings sold off, and volunteers were expected to both house and run many of our libraries. We now call on Councillor McKinley to assure the people of Essex that this particular closure plan by stealth has been quietly shelved.”

“We are concerned about plans to increase the use of library space being shared with other services and other organisations. It stands to reason that when a library has to give up space, there will be less room for books, less room to study, and less room for computers. We have seen from past experience that any cuts to library services – such as cuts to opening hours and the cuts to book stock, which is down by nearly half a million over the last decade – is then used to justify further cuts and even closures down the line. That clearly remains a danger.”

“It is disappointing that the council seems to be repeating one of the mistakes from its previous consultation. We have seen no publicity about the strategy nor the consultation in any library in Essex. When people have asked for paper copies of either the strategy or the consultation none have been available. If the council is serious about increasing its engagement as it claims in the draft, what about those who are not online? Do they not get a say?”

The link and details to join by Zoom are:-
Meeting ID: 826 5224 9312Passcode: 539164

For more information please see previous press release https://www.facebook.com/2198820073666446/posts/3072098936338551/

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