County-wide libraries overhaul could see hours cut back at town library

PUBLISHED: 08:38 14 December 2018

Dunmow Library. Picture: SaffronPhoto

Dunmow Library. Picture: SaffronPhoto

SaffronPhoto 2016

The number of hours Dunmow library is open could reduce by more than a half under proposals put forward by Essex County Council (ECC).

The change forms part of ECC’s proposals for libraries across the county, which aim to modernise the service.

According to ECC, traditional library use in Essex has collapsed in the last 10 years, with 31 per cent fewer people using Essex libraries now than there were in 2008 – equating to 100,000 fewer users.

Essex County Council proposes placing libraries into four tiers, based on need for them.

Libraries proposed to be placed in tier two, including Dunmow library, are in areas where there is a need for them, and, under the plans would be managed by ECC and delivered in partnership with the community or other partnerships

Under the ECC proposals, tier two libraries would ‘typically’ be open for 16-32 hours per week plus, where viable, include self service. The council said it would look to extend opening hours, including into the evening, if it could be resourced by volunteers or made affordable.

Dunmow library is currently open 56 hours a week.

Residents can have their say on the county-wide plans during a 12-week consultation period, which will end on February 20.

Councillor Susan Barker, cabinet member for customer services, said: “We want to create a library service with a wider appeal, which is more relevant to and a better fit with people’s lives, one which is online 24-7, is faster, and offers users more choice.

“The consultation is the opportunity to feedback on our plans and make sure that views are heard and considered.”

At a Dunmow Town Council meeting on December 6, Cllr Barker said ECC had not received a “single response from Dunmow so far”.

Vic Ranger, district councillor for Dunmow South and Barston, said: “At this stage, I would encourage everyone who uses the Dunmow library, for whatever purpose, to respond to the consultation. Just signing a petition is not enough.

“When ECC come to review the consultation responses they will only then begin to understand the effect and impact the suggested changes will have on people’s lives if they have evidence. Changes may well happen, it is best if they are informed and objective.”

Catherine Mummery, co-director of High Stile Projects, a Dunmow-based arts company, which works with Dunmow library, said: “More work needs to be done to develop new audience development strategies and to see what can be done to address the decline in library visits.”

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