Library to close for eight months

PUBLISHED: 13:57 26 October 2006 | UPDATED: 09:56 31 May 2010

Plans for Saffron Walden Library go on display in the town hall - Pic: Gordon Ridgewell

Plans for Saffron Walden Library go on display in the town hall - Pic: Gordon Ridgewell

SAFFRON Walden Town Library closed on Monday to allow major refurbishment to begin in November. Essex County Council s approach to consultation regarding the changes to the library has been widely criticised, with Saffron Walden Town Council and local gro

SAFFRON Walden Town Library closed on Monday to allow major refurbishment to begin in November.

Essex County Council's approach to consultation regarding the changes to the library has been widely criticised, with Saffron Walden Town Council and local groups feeling they have simply been told what will happen rather than being genuinely consulted.

The Uttlesford Local History Recorders (ULHR), a group that maintains records of present events and safeguards historical material, had a meeting with two representatives of Essex County Council on Monday to express their concerns.

Essex Libraries Manager, Michele Jones, and arts and heritage officer for the county council, Miriam Stead, met members of the ULHR to hear the group's concerns surrounding the library's future resource room.

Chair of the ULHR, Jacky Cooper, said: "We believe we have made an irrefutable case for the ground floor of 2 King Street, which is part of the library building, to be used as a resource room both for history interests and for the town library lending stock.

"This should be combined with the Archive Access Point, the County Library reference shelves and the public access computers, and other resources."

The history group has previously written to Lord Hanningfield, Leader of Essex County Council, stressing the importance of adequate local history facilities in the revamped library and criticising the lack of consultation.

Lord Hanningfield responded: "I am sorry that you feel our consultation with stakeholders and partners has been unsatisfactory.

"Sufficient space to support local history provision will be provided within the library."

The council is intending to locate the Archive Access Point on the first floor, but the ULHR believes it would be better located on the ground floor.

Mrs Cooper said: "Ground floor access is vital and many family historians are retired people who would be put off by stairs.

"Archive Access Point researchers need Town Library books, and Town Library researchers need Archive Access Point resources - they should be brought together."

There have been two weekends of public exhibitions in the library, giving people a chance to see and comment on its refurbishment.

Mayor of Saffron Walden, Hilary Shibata, said: "Visitors to the exhibition expressed views both for and against the proposals, and issues raised included the lack of space for group meetings and community use in the evenings; the county's Archive Access Point and other facilities for local and family history research; the location of the Children's Library; provision for young adults; and quiet study areas."

The library is being substantially remodelled in a project that is likely to cost almost £900,000. It is due to reopen in July 2007.

From November 6, there will be a temporary replacement library in place on Church Street, directly opposite St Mary's Church.

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