Library protests over community run plans

Campaigners reject community run proposal Credit: ITV Anglia

Protests have taken place in Chelmsford today against plans for 25 libraries to be run by volunteers. In July last year the county council reversed its decision to close a third of its libraries following a wave of protests and petitions, instead saying they would work with communities to keep the service going.

But campaigners say the plans aren't sustainable and will eventually result in closure.

Last July Essex county council reversed its decision to close a third of its libraries...

Instead they said they would try to keep the service going through volunteer groups.

But the campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex says the plan won't work, and amounts to closure by stealth.

Once the announcement was made that libraries were safe that's what people think, it's much more difficult to get across to the public what the county council's plan is, just how unsustainable it is, it's a ridiculous plan to have these charity shop libraries and to have these library services staffed by volunteers, it's clearly an entirely unsustainable plan

– Andy Abbotts, Save Our Libraries Essex

Almost 12-thousand people signed the original petition to save the libraries from closure, now a new petition has started to save the librarians.

People are passionate about it.... and I think it's because people look on their libraries as their own, they're part of their culture, they feel an ownership of them, I think that's why we got so many thousand signatures and why people rose up when the council came out with this plan

– Margaret Shea, Campaigner

Essex county council says library attendance has collapsed and the service is no longer viable in its current form.

It says it has listened to the public by deciding not to close the libraries, and is now working with communities on how it can make the service better.

According to the council, borrowing library books has gone down by almost a third, but many argue a library gives much more than access to books.

I would imagine any school in Chelmsford is within a 15 minute walk from a library at the end of the school day and they tell us they do go to the library because homes are very busy places..... not every young person has the luxury of a quiet space that is conducive to them learning independently and devoting time to preparing for exams which are defining moments in their lives

– Tom Coen, St John Payne Catholic School

The council has announced that no libraries will be closed within the next five years, during which time campaigners say their voices will keep on being heard.