New plans to be revealed to revive county's libraries

David Walliams

David Walliams supported the campaign to save Essex libraries - Credit: PA

After a huge public outcry and a star-studded campaign, the plan to keep the reprieved Essex libraries thriving will be unveiled next month.

Essex County Council had planned to close 25 of its 74 libraries in 2018 before making a U-turn a year later.

Celebrities who joined residents in convincing the authority to halt any closures include children’s authors such as TV personality David Walliams and comedian David Baddiel.

The county council now plans to publish its draft strategy on the future of libraries in Essex in October, and it has been praised for its “act of genuine repentance” three years after its heavily criticised closure proposal.

Children listening to stories.

A strategy for the libraries will be revealed next month - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It announced in 2019 there would be no closures while initially adding volunteers would be sought to keep several smaller libraries running.

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But deputy leader of authority, councillor Louise McKinlay, who is in charge of library reorganisation, told the People and Families Policy and Scrutiny Committee on September 9 of the commitment to keep libraries open and council staff in each.

She said: “The libraries will be remain open and they will be run by county council staff.

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“I absolutely agreed there is a role volunteers can play but I want that to be in addition to the library service has on offer.

“Through the course of the engagement sessions and consultation that is really important that we hear from people who are not using the libraries at the moment to understand why that is and what they want.

PA Library photo dated 8/8/2001 Comedian David Baddiel

Comedian and writer David Baddiel backed the save it appeal - Credit: PA

“The reality is use of libraries has been falling for a number of years and if we are to turn that tide by default we need to get people into the libraries and get them using them.

“And that is why through the work the communities can do and through the consultation we have really opportunity across the piece in terms of our communities and residents about how they want to see libraries and what it is they want from them.”

Councillor Aidan McGurran said: “I am no theologian but one thing I do know is the good Lord loves an act of genuine repentance and I think the change in attitude towards libraries by this council over the last couple of years is extremely welcome.

“And I also would like to thank the efforts of residents for concentrating the minds of this council on the absolute importance of libraries and I think I have alluded to it before in my personal case how important libraries were in my youth.

“But I think the recent events of the pandemic as in so many cases has emphasised yet again just how vital libraries are.”

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