WATCH: Children as young as four join fight to save libraries
PUBLISHED: 20:35 27 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:12 28 April 2019
SAVE OUR LIBRARIES ESSEX
Protests marches have been held across Essex today - with many fronted by children - to save the county's libraries.
Up to 25 of Essex's 74 libraries are facing the axe under controversial county council proposals consulted on earlier in the year.
Today, children as young as four added their voices to the protest by staging a Young People's March for Libraries across Essex, in places such as Colchester and Manningtree.
Ahead of the protests, some of which are still ongoing, four-year-old Iris Fisher said: “Don't close our library – we have to save it because it's our library so we can still get new books.”
A spokesman for campaign group Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) said: “We were delighted that in spite of the blustery weather hundreds of children across the whole county came out onto the streets to shout out their passion for their libraries. They love their libraries and they love their librarians and are upset that adults want to take them away.
“Under 19s are amongst the largest user group in some libraries yet a children's survey was not provided during the libraries consultation.
“This was their chance to speak out to Essex County Council.
“A crowd of at least 300 children with their families marched through Colchester and a crowd of up to 500 in Manningtree.”
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However, Essex County Council bosses say libraries at risk of shutting are those with “relatively low demand”.
Areas with libraries under threat have other services nearby, they claim, adding “a library service is not required in these locations”.
At-risk services include facilities in Manningtree, Harwich, Sible Hedingham, Holland-on-Sea and Prettygate.
Colchester's Young People's March for Libraries assembled at the town's library at 2.30pm before marching through the town.
Protests also took place in Manningtree this afternoon.
A council spokesman said: “Essex County Council consulted on the draft libraries strategy for 12 weeks, receiving over 21,000 responses.
“We are not planning to close up to 60% of libraries but have consulted on possibly closing up to 25. No decisions about any library has or will be made until the county council cabinet considers the final strategy in the summer.”
“In terms of ensuring young people had the opportunity to have their say, we promoted the consultation countywide to every current library user, we also promoted to families and young people through schools, the Early Years Service, pre-schools and organisers of library groups and activities for children. We also promoted extensively via social media.
“Of the 21,000 responses we received, 4,812 were from families with children under 11 – 527 from those 16 and under and an additional 135 from 17 to 20-year-olds.
“This means that over a quarter of all responses to the consultation were from young people and their families.”