Libraries campaign group is concerned at consultation plan
- Credit: Celia Bartlett
Residents are being urged to have their say about the future of libraries, as the main campaign group against library closures - Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) - has raised concerns and published its 10-point plan.
Essex County Council had originally planned to close 25 of its 74 libraries in 2018. Thaxted and Stansted would have closed, while the hours at Dunmow Library and Saffron Walden Library would have been reduced.
Petitions, cross-party support, and protests outside libraries along with a star-studded campaign convinced the authority to change its mind.
Essex County Council will hold a question and answer session on Monday (September 20) at 11.30am and again at 6pm, then publish the draft strategy in October.
SOLE members have said they are concerned the online sessions will be difficult for many to attend because of the timings, and they have criticised ECC for declining to meet SOLE supporters.
They have pointed to Ramsey Community Library in Tendring district, an independently run community library, which has permanently closed through a lack of volunteers.
A SOLE spokesperson said: "We hope Essex County Council receives and engages positively with our ideas.
"We hope its leadership listens to the people of Essex as they prepare the new strategy. However, so far we have grave concerns that this will not happen."
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They added: "The County Council wants questions in advance. The perfect opportunity for the County Council to censor out any and all difficult questions."
Councillor Louise McKinlay, who is in charge of library reorganisation, told the People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee of the council’s commitment to keep libraries open and council staff in each.
Cllr McKinlay said: “The libraries will be remain open and they will be run by county council staff.
“I absolutely agreed there is a role volunteers can play but I want that to be in addition to the library service has on offer.
“Through the course of the engagement sessions and consultation that is really important that we hear from people who are not using the libraries at the moment to understand why that is and what they want.
“The reality is use of libraries has been falling for a number of years and if we are to turn that tide by default we need to get people into the libraries and get them using them.
“And that is why through the work the communities can do and through the consultation we have really opportunity across the piece in terms of our communities and residents about how they want to see libraries and what it is they want from them.”
Residents wishing to attend the online consultation can register their interest via the following links. They will then be contacted by email with full joining instructions:
Morning session, 11.30am to 12.30pm on September 20: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/have-your-say-on-the-library-service-tickets-169622719119
Evening session, 6pm to 7pm on September 20: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/have-your-say-on-the-library-service-tickets-169624544579