Suffolk: Two-thirds of county’s libraries facing the axe - full list
CAMPAIGNERS spoke of their devastation last night after it was revealed that 29 libraries across Suffolk are facing the axe.
Two-thirds of the county’s 44 libraries will close if no-one comes forward to take them over as Suffolk County Council tries to save 30% of its �9million library budget over the next three years.
A consultation exercise is being launched today by the county council in a bid to find community groups, individual volunteers and parish councils willing to come forward and take over the running of their local library – or see its doors closed for good.
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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“We are in a different financial environment and all councils and the Government are having to make very significant savings.”
The council is hoping community groups will come forward to take over the libraries before the consultation closes at the end of April.
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But campaigners are outraged at the idea of losing the county’s precious library resources.
Roger Mackay, who organised a protest at the weekend against the cuts in Ipswich, said: “It’s my worst fears confirmed – I think it’s absolutely appalling.
“Libraries are an important part of the fabric of every community and I think it’s devastating that they should say 29 face closure.
“I don’t think their plans are realistic because I don’t ever see how volunteers, however well meaning they might be, could ever offer the same service as a professional. It takes three years to train as a librarian and I can’t see any volunteer being able to match that.”
County councillor Richard Kemp, who could see two libraries close in his Melford constituency, said: “I think it’s very disappointing.
“If we want young people to get into reading – which is more educational than watching television or playing games – it’s a real backward step.
“I just don’t think the groundwork has been done. Libraries were almost an institution to educate people before we ever had an education system.
“There is absolutely no small print or detail to give anybody any idea of whether or not they would be interested.”
Meanwhile, the shock waves have echoed across the county, with Steve Smedley, of pressure group Save Leiston Library, vowing to fight the plans.
“Sadly it is not a surprise,” he said. “It is something I have been expecting, especially given other experiences across the country.
“Particularly in Leiston it is going to be quite a blow. It provides an incredibly important service, not just for borrowing books but also for IT support.
“People in the local area will be fighting this tooth and nail.”
Fears have also been raised over children’s literacy once the cuts go through, as the latest SATs results for seven-year-olds show Suffolk’s youngsters are already underperforming in English compared to the national average.
Full details of the proposals are available at http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/librariesconsultation2011
The full list of libraries under threat is:-
Capel St Mary
Rose Hill (Ipswich)