Reading Is Good For The SOLE

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Report from Steve Tellis, Chair, Rayleigh & Wickford Liberal Democrats

Hundreds of Hockley people turned out on Saturday (12th January 2019) to support their local Library. Young and old were taking part in the ‘Big Borrow’ event when local people exercised their right to use their Library and borrow books – clearing the shelves. This is part of the ‘Save Our Libraries Essex’ (SOLE), a campaign organised in Hockley by Megan Hemmings and her team of volunteers.

Nicola O’Riordan Finley outside Hockley Library

Lib Dem campaigner Nicola O’Riordan Finley told onlineFOCUS “I was asked to help print the County Council’s consultation questionnaire, it sounds crazy but the Library would have had to pay if they printed the County’s own consultation forms!”. Nicola not only printed and collated the questionnaires, but she also handed them out on the day with other helpers – they went like hotcakes! 

Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are

Many people were keen to point out that Libraries are not just places to borrow books but community hubs, with all sorts of information and access to new technology,often the only one in their area. County wide, the Council want to close 25 libraries and will only keep 19 others if volunteers agree to run them. Nicola O’Riordan Finley  said “I have helped run a local library and appreciate the valuable input of voluntary staff, but our Libraries must not be held to ransom by the County Council, demanding volunteers or closing services.

We are worried that in addition to saving on library running costs the County Council are eying up the value of library buildings and property in our town centres, things that the Conservative run County Council could sell off. Even libraries safe in the current round of cuts – like Rayleigh – could be under threat in the future. It is time we ensured these community assets are kept safe while still being open to innovation.