Eye: Library campaigners urge council rethink

DOZENS of Valentine’s protest cards were posted to Suffolk County Council yesterday by campaigners fighting to save their community library.

Protesters including schoolchildren, parents, and pensioners gathered outside Eye Library to show their love for the town centre building, which is at risk because of council cutbacks.

The local authority has begun a three-month consultation on proposals to transfer the running of 29 of the county’s 44 libraries to local councils, businesses, community and voluntary groups in a bid to slash Suffolk’s library budget by 30%.

Protesters from Eye’s Love Our Library (LOL) group yesterday signed cards and a petition and spoke of their anger at the plans. They also urged the county council to think again. Students from the nearby primary and high schools attended the Valentine’s protest outside the 1960s building in Buckshorn Lane, which is also home to toddler and pensioner groups.

Felix Williams, deputy mayor, said Eye Town Council did not have the funds to take on the library by itself, which could take up 40% of the town’s budget. However, he added that he was “hopeful” a solution could be found in the next two months and one of the options was to move the library and merge it with other services.

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“We are being clobbered left right and centre and unfairly in Eye. Being Valentine’s Day, we want to demonstrate how much we love our library and we want to encourage the county council to come up with alternative plans. There is strong feeling, particularly about the library, and I am hoping we can direct some of that energy to other services under threat such as youth services and our care home,” he said.

Suffolk County Council says that Eye Library costs �70,000 a year to run and receives 27,317 visits a year at a cost of �2.56 a visit. People have until the end of April to comment on the libraries consultation.

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Twelve-year-old Grace Fraser, a pupil at Hartismere High School, who attended yesterday’s protest said: “I have been using the library since I was born and I just don’t know why they can not find the money. They are cutting so many things and it is not right. It is for the community.”

Julie Harrison, whose family use the library and its toddler group, added: “It would be a big blow if it closed. It is a focal point of the community and the librarian and her staff are fantastic and go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Suffolk County Council is hoping local groups and organisations can take over the running of the library.

Judy Terry, county councillor responsible for libraries, said: “We are hoping that people will come forward with their ideas, but the fallback position is that if we don’t get those responses, then 29 libraries do have to close.

“As a child, I used to spend every Saturday afternoon in my local library right up until my teens, but we do have to be realistic and realise we can’t continue operating on the same basis as we have done in the past.”

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