Four-year plan to upgrade Essex libraries approved by cabinet

Street view of Saffron Walden Library, Essex

Saffron Walden Library - Credit: Archant

Essex County Council Cabinet has approved a new four-year plan for its libraries, committing to keeping all 74 of its libraries open after previous plans were made to close over a third of them.

Tuesday, April 19 saw Essex County Council approve the 'Everyone's Library Service 2022-2026' plan, following on from eight weeks of public consultation from November 2021 to January 2022 which involved thousands of residents sharing their thoughts on the draft of the plan.

The plan, which is available online at www.essex.gov.uk/everyoneslibrary, sets out three key aims for the next four years and goes on to explain how it will achieve these.

Street view of Great Dunmow Library, Essex

Dunmow Library - Credit: Archant

The first aim is to improve the library service and literacy. The council plans to do this by keeping the resources in the libraries up to date and running activities to get people interested in their local library and to improve literacy in children and adults. Each library throughout Essex will have literacy areas by the end of June.

The second aim is to improve communication and infrastructure. Communication improvements will be achieved through developing mobile and outreach services and improving engagement with existing and future users, among other goals to improve the conditions for staff and volunteers.

Improved infrastructure will come in the form of upgrading their existing buildings and reducing their carbon footprint.

The third and final aim is to support their communities and levelling up, by improving accessibility to library resources for those who cannot visit their local library, partnering with organisations like Adult Community Learning to increase employability - providing ways to help adults gain new skills - as well as providing resources to help residents with health and wellbeing.

The council similarly aims to support their communities digitally with technology training to close the digital exclusion gap.

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Deputy leader and cabinet member for community, equality, partnerships and performance, Cllr Louise McKinlay said: "The plan will help create a service that is modern, vibrant and sustainable, with improved access, better facilities and more opportunities for local people.”