Swindon Council’s plans to close 11 libraries “will cause long-term damage" to the futures of constituents, Nick Poole c.e.o. of libraries body CILIP has said.
In an open letter to Councillor David Renard of Swindon Council, Poole urges the council to reconsider plans to close 11 of its 15 libraries by June 2017. The proposals will see only four libraries continue to be run by the council – Central, West Swindon, North Swindon and Highworth - in order to make £1.5m worth of savings.
“We note with concern that the model being proposed for Swindon is more severe in its reduction of the statutory service than almost any other we have seen”, Poole said. “I very much hope that you will reconsider the extent of your proposals and find the means to maintain as much of the existing service within your statutory provision as possible.”
According to the letter, several councillors in other boroughs facing similar economic challenges have expressed “sincere reservations about the scale of the reduction that [Swindon Council has] proposed”. It continues: “In similar circumstances, others have found solutions and options which enable them to secure more of their library service on behalf of their electorate.”
In an article for the Swindon Advertiser, Renard discussed the plans for the library service, saying that although libraries are “regarded as hubs within communities...the council is facing an enormous financial challenge… if we are going to survive and fulfill our statutory obligation of looking after the most vulnerable in our society we have to spend less money on what most people regard as traditional council services.”
He added: “Libraries are no exception and the challenge we have been grappling with for the last few months is how to provide a sustainable library service knowing that the service’s budget will reduce by £1.5m.”
Poole said: “As you know, the decision to remove a library service is far more than a spreadsheet exercise. We understand your need to find cost-savings but it is vital that you are clear about the social and economic cost both to your authority and the people you serve.
“We know that it can be tempting to look to ‘innovative’ solutions for the delivery of library services which effectively depend on reducing paid staffing and making increased use of technology to ‘fill the gap’. It is vitally important that you and your colleagues appreciate that all of the social and economic benefit of a local library comes from the skilled, committed and professional people who work there. Without them, a library is just a building. We urge you to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that simply maintaining opening hours through self-service systems will deliver the kind of library service which your community expects, needs and deserves.”
Swindon Council will meet to discuss the plans for the library service tomorrow (13 July).
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