If we don’t act now, the future of our nearest library looks grim … That appears to be the message from campaigners who have been studying the latest proposals for the library service across Staffordshire.
The public has only a month left in which to make its views on the proposals known.
We all know that libraries are changing. Once you just went there to borrow a book, read a newspaper, or to study. But now, there are all sorts of services. At Blythe Bridge library, the nearest library to Draycott, there are now story-telling sessions, adult education sessions, public-meeting spaces, internet-access computers to use, and even a small art-gallery!
Libraries must keep changing – especially as they do less book-lending and more of providing e-publications online. Footfall in libraries is not what it was.
Staffordshire County Council also has to cut its budget by fifteen per cent over the next three years.
So the County Council is redefining its libraries. The biggest four (now known as ‘Extra’ Libraries) are safe; and fifteen more (known as ‘Core’) will be reviewed. But the remaining twenty-four (now to be known as ‘Local’) have an uncertain future, and may well have their services broken up or ‘re-assigned’ – and Blythe Bridge Library is in this third, endangered category.
The county council is saying that it hopes local communities, using volunteers, might agree to take on ‘Local’ libraries – or somehow split the current services offered by the library across various local groups. Or, maybe, under the ‘Local’ idea, it will give us an enhanced mobile-library system, or find a new and smaller building.
Of course, local people have not taken the news lying down. A packed-out meeting last month saw objections flying thick and fast! Forsbrook Parish Council has taken the lead in a campaign to resist major changes.
(Our own Draycott Parish Council is aware of the proposals, but has yet to take any major stand).
A campaign doucument (opens as a WORD document) put out by Forsbrook PC makes interesting reading. The figures in it show that not only is Blythe Bridge Library more popular than Cheadle Library, it also is considerably cheaper to run. Yet, strangely, Cheadle is safe!
Making views known
Nothing is yet decided. The current proposals are only proposals; so the County is now ‘consulting’ the public. (See: Library Future Proposals)
If you have views on the library service, locally or cross-county (or both), now is the time to make them known.
You can find the consultation sheets in any county library (Stoke-on-Trent libraries are separate to all this of course), or, if you prefer, you can fill in the consultation questionnaire online. Closing date is October 7th.
Forsbrook PC is recommending that you answer Question 33 on the consultation document by ticking ‘Strongly Disagree’.
The sad thing is that questionnaires never quite get to the reality of the situation.
Think about it… with church halls and village halls now locked all the time; and with ‘community corner shops’ less and less in evidence; and with pubs getting more expensive; and with schools forced to exclude ‘outsiders’, where is there for a village community to freely meet and greet each other? Only the library.
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