Council launches consultation to ask residents for views on future of library services
Essex County has launched a seven-week consultation asking members of the public for their views about the future of library services.
The council has no plans to scrap mobile libraries, but seven of its nine-strong fleet are now coming to the end of their working lives and their usage has declined by nearly 50% in the past seven years.
As a result, the authority is asking residents about how they see library services to locations outside of town centres being delivered.
They hope this will encourage more people to get involved through volunteering, but could mean fewer mobile libraries.
This involves helping support the creation of community libraries, staffed by volunteers, in local halls, shops or pubs and extending the Home Library Service, which delivers books to people in their own homes.
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Councillor Sue Barker, cabinet member for libraries, said: “We know how much people value their mobile library service. But we also know that in recent years, fewer and fewer people have been taking advantage of it.
“Combined with other factors, such as vehicles which are coming to the end of their working lives, we have reached a point where the right thing to do is look again at how we provide these services.
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“This is why we are consulting with residents on how we create a mobile library service which is a better fit with people’s lives.
“We want a service which is available at a place and time which suits users; a service which is flexible enough to help volunteers set up a community library in a village hall, pub, sports club or shop.
“We want a service where volunteers deliver books directly to the door, and can stop to chat with the residents so that we contribute to ending social isolation, and a service which is able to respond to different local needs and settings.
“We don’t want a service which wastes money by having mobile library buses parked in locations at times when no one visits.”
The council wants to hear what people think of how it proposes to redraw routes and to share their own ideas for bringing libraries to more remote places.
The consultation started today (September 19).
To have a say, visit libraries.essex.gov.uk/news/mobile-library-service-consultation.
Alternatively, complete a paper survey available from a mobile or local library