'Libraries should be priority for county council spending'
PUBLISHED: 08:35 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:39 21 January 2019
The consultation on the future of library services in Essex has reached its half-way point and residents in Saffron Walden have been sharing their thoughts on the matter.
Residents are being asked to have their say in a consultation on plans to close 25 libraries across the county, including those in Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted.
With six weeks to go there is still plenty of time to have your say and by January 9, more than 13,000 surveys had been completed.
Essex County Council says there have been responses from organisations and people who are interested in running community libraries, where that could be a potential future option.
But Lesley Lancaster, 45, from Saffron Walden, says funding for libraries should be a priority for the county council.
She said: “I take my granddaughter occasionally, she just adores it – she spends a lot of time moving the chairs about but it’s getting her used to being in an environment with books and realising there is something else other than the iPad.
“I grew up with books. It’s one of the focal points of the town. I think it’s absolutely catastrophic when they close them in some of the villages because there it’s really important as the focus of the community but it’s equally as important here because we’re a big town and it’s a source of information.
“You see elderly people in there doing jigsaws – it’s good for all ages.”
Lesley’s first memory of a library was a mobile library which used to park at the end of her road every Friday.
“Every week we went, mum saw her friends – it’s sociable. Libraries are traditionally quiet places but they’re also sociable places as well.
“I just think it is all wrong. Policing has got to come first, but libraries have got to be up there near the top for county council expenditure.”
But Roland and Virginia Saich, a married couple who live in Saffron Walden, said they couldn’t remember the last time they took a book out of a library.
Roland said: “I used to go when I was a lot younger – before I went to the Saffron Walden County High School. My daughter buys two or three books a week and she passes them over to us. And then we give them to the charity shops after.
Virginia added: “There always seem to be a lot of people in there. If that was closed, they would definitely miss it.
“When our girls were small, we used to go there. I used to take them in there to get books, but they’re 50 now. Our interests changed perhaps.”
Adam Goodwin, also from Saffron Walden, said the town needs the library for children, but he doesn’t use it.
He said: “Everything’s online. I don’t really read because I’m quite dyslexic, so I’ve never really read books. I know you can use it for internet, but I’ve got computers at home and phones. I think the town needs it for kids to go and learn stuff, but I personally don’t use it. We used it when we were younger – there was story time.
“I remember we were taken at least once a week for story time. It’s been part of the town since we were born, so I suppose more people should use it.”
Essex County Councillor Sue Barker, cabinet member for customer and corporate said she is “really pleased” with the high number of responses to the public consultation on the future of libraries in Essex.
“Thank you everyone for taking the time to share your views,” Cllr Barker said. “I would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet completed the survey to please do so.”
The consultation is open until February 20 and the survey can be found at essex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation.
Residents are encouraged to complete the survey online, however, if this is not possible the survey can be completed over the phone on 0345 603 7639 or a paper copy, large print or EasyRead version can be sent to you.