Campaigners disappointed by lack of response to library consultation

Politics / Mon 14th Feb 2022 am28 08:19am

CAMPAIGNERS have said the 2,000 responses received by Essex County Council for its recently closed consultation into the future of the county’s libraries, have proved right its concerns about a lack of publicity for and access to the consultation. 

The campaign group, which successfully protested against plans to close up to two-thirds of the county’s libraries back in 2018/19, had previously made criticisms of the council, including an absence of paper copies of the survey and posters in libraries. Back in 2018/19, the consultation gained 21,000 responses. SOLE also called for the consultation period to be extended to allow more people to take part.

“We don’t want to say we told you so – but we did warn that the lack of publicity about the consultation and a failure to reach out beyond those who are online would make this whole exercise meaningless”, said a spokesperson for SOLE. “The pitiful response – less than ten percent of those who participated in the previous survey – has borne this out. The consultation is a con-trick.”

“What happened to promises to reach out to those who have stopped using libraries? It is likely even most regular library users would have been unaware of the consultation. There was hardly any information about it in our libraries, and what did finally appear only came after pressure from campaigners. As for those who are not online, what chance did they have in taking part what with a near absence of paper copies of both the draft plan and survey forms?”

“Some campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the draft proposals, particularly as plans replace the current set up with so-called ‘community libraries’ – or more appropriately charity shop libraries – appear to have been dropped. However, campaigners still seek an assurance from the council that any takeover bid for a library will be rejected, and demand that library spaces are not reduced or new charges introduced, and that the half a million books cut over the last decade should be replaced.”

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