A plan for our libraries

In advance of Essex County Council publishing a new strategy for libraries later on this year, Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE)https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurLibrariesEssex – have launched this 10 point plan for libraries. While Thurrock Council is a unitary authority, many of these points also apply to them as well as to neighbouring Basildon which comes under Essex. Please feel free to share this far and wide and help make sure the Philistine bean counters at Essex County Council (and also Thurrock Council) take note of the strength of feeling about keeping our libraries fully open, fully staffed and fully stocked.

News comes as ‘flagship’ ‘community library’ closes for good due to lack of volunteers

Campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) has today launched its ‘Ten Point Plan for Libraries’. The group says it wants to have a ‘positive engagement’ with Essex County Council (ECC) in advance of a new libraries strategy due for publication later this year. ECC is staging what it describes as two ‘have your say’ sessions on Monday September 20th (Residents invited to have their say on the library service – Essex County Council).

SOLE is concerned the sessions will be difficult for many to attend, and has also criticised ECC for turning down an invite to meet with SOLE supporters.

SOLE’s ten points are:-

1. A long term commitment to keep all existing branch libraries open.

2. Commit to every library staying staffed and being maintained directly by Essex County Council.

3. Increase our paid, trained, library staff – libraries must not depend on volunteers.

4. Listen to library users – let’s see real, open consultation on a library strategy.

5. Improve the stock in every local library – let’s reverse the loss of 500,000 books.

6. Restore and extend opening hours including Sunday opening where there is proven demand.

7. Introduce a fines amnesty to build library use back.

8. Protect our existing public library space – don’t sacrifice it to other users and profit.

9. Develop, extend, and promote appropriate activities and services supporting education and culture for all, in our libraries.

10. Publish a local development plan for every library and invest in our library buildings and infrastructure – it’s our future.

A SOLE spokesperson said of the ten point plan:-

“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.’

‘After numerous public offers from the County Council leadership to meet with SOLE supporters, our efforts to arrange such a meeting in an accountable and open way – including the appointment of a neutral chair – have all been turned down. McKinlay and Bentley have said one thing in public, but have done the total opposite when receiving our invitation.’

‘The plans for the so-called ‘have your say’ online sessions later this month are not likely to fill many people with confidence. With the sessions being in either the middle of the day or early evening, attendance will be difficult to impossible for those of us working, and/or caring for our families that day. Furthermore, the County Council wants questions in advance. The perfect opportunity for the County Council to censor out any and all difficult questions.’

The news comes after Essex Library services announced on its Facebook page the permanent closure of Ramsey Community Library due to a lack of volunteers (https://www.facebook.com/161020640600103/posts/4313819805320145/).

‘When arguing for the need to get rid of professional staff, and sell off many of our library buildings, the County Council regularly pointed to Ramsey as a “flagship” example of how a library can rely entirely on volunteers’ continued SOLE’s spokesperson. ‘Now we can all see how wrong they were. Whatever happens in the new strategy the outsourcing plans must go. Plans for charity shop libraries are closure by stealth.’

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