Libraries at risk in council shake-up
Last updated at 13:00, Friday, 15 April 2011
COPELAND’S libraries are among those at risk in a “modernising’’ shake-up proposed by the county council.
Those threatened are Hensingham, Kells, Mirehouse, Distington, Frizington, Gosforth, Seascale, St Bees and Thornhill.
County council officials stress that the changes are about modernisation, not saving money, and are this week calling on the public to give their views on local libraries.
Figures reveal that in the last five years in Cumbria there has been a 20 per cent drop in library visitors and half a million fewer items borrowed.
Officials believe they can offer a better service in ‘library links’ where up to 400 popular titles can be borrowed through village shops, pubs, community centres and other outlets.
The council has launched a consultation on its proposals through focus groups. If the ruling cabinet agrees in July, a full consultation will follow in the autumn with a view to making changes next year.
Richard Parry, Cumbria County Council’s director of adult and local services, said: “The county council values its libraries and recognises the vital role they play in education, leisure and giving Cumbrians access to IT facilities and other services.
“When successful, libraries can become the hub of a community, with reading groups, health advice and lots of activities for young people.
“For years the debate in Cumbria has been about buildings and opening hours, but we need to put the wide range of services that we offer at the heart of the debate and think about how we can widen access to them within the constraints we have in our budget.
“This means thinking differently and using our money differently. We want to hear from people about whether they’re up for having a local library in their shop, pub or village hall. We want to hear from people keen to get involved in the running of their local library.
“And we want to hear people’s ideas about how they think the service can be improved and how we can use technology and the internet to full effect.’’
Officials state that some of the county’s libraries are only open for 10 hours a week “meaning the books are locked up in buildings for 95 per cent of the time.’’
However, Ann Chambers, deputy chief executive of Howgill Family Centre which uses libraries throughout Copeland for a variety of children’s activities, said: “So many of our children now live in homes where there aren’t any books. No treasured ‘old friends’ to look at again and again.
“I have yet to meet the tiny tot who doesn’t enjoy sitting with a grown up and turning the magical pages of a book.
“For many children the library is the only place they will ever be physically engaged with all the possibilities there are on the shelves.
“That is why many small children’s activities are based in library buildings, a resource not to be found or replicated anywhere else.
“Having a space where the sole purpose is to engage with words and pictures, to create memories that last a lifetime, is a delight and not to be given away lightly.
“Many parts of the brain are dormant, switched off and not being challenged to grow and make new pathways, so it is vitally important that we engage children physically with books as early as we can.’’
For further information on the consultation go to www.cumbria.gov.uk
First published at 11:12, Thursday, 14 April 2011
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Chuck, your hopes for school libraries are a pipe dream unless they are made statutory provision for secondary schools in England.Did you know that prisons have by law to provide a library for their inmates but schools do not? Is it any wonder most people think they can find all the information they need on the internet and that many people who don't use libraries think they have to pay to use them? And on top of that, school librarians in Cumbrian schools are currently being down-graded along with many other CCC employees - we just haven't been shouting as loudly as the Teaching Assistants because there are fewer of us.
It's another stealth tax and it's our kids who are going to suffer, along with the elderly who just won't be able to use libraries if they don't live near one.Libraries are one of the very few great things in life which are free - why don't more people use them? Because they don't know the possibilities contained in them. Shutting libraries will have exactly the effect planned - access will be limited & their services will deteriorate so fewer people will use them and then more will be closed because they are under-used. Catch-22.
I suppose that it is a case of use it or lose it. I just hope the elderly in more out of the way places will be able to have access to some library functions. The rest of us will have to be content to use the internet for reference and kindles for reading. It is a shame that booksellers are also on the way out now we have Amazon. I just hope schools are given dedicated money to support their own libraries otherwise the many financially and socially impoverished children will be denied the chance to read once they have switched off the TV, X Box and all the other electronic delights they have access to. A brave new world Shakespeare had no notion of.