Hay residents given extension to save library

Hay residents given extension to save library

Residents in Hay-on-Wye have been given longer to find an alternative to funding their local library after a deadline passed yesterday (31st October).

The local library in Hay-on-Wye - home to the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts - is one of the 11 libraries earmarked for closure by Powys County Council in its bid to find £250,000 worth of savings by 2019. The plans have been slammed by authors including Joanne Harris and Kathy Lette as “blasphemous” and “disastrously short sighted”.

According to the Hereford Times, the library is open four days a week and costs £37,500 a year to run, with £7,000 of the sum is contributed by Hay Festival.

Powys County Council plans to withdraw half of its funding, asking the town council or a community group to contribute the other half. Hay Town Council has said it can not legally pay for the service.

The town's residents were initially given until yesterday (31st October) to present the council with a "viable" plan outlining how they intend to raise the money needed each year to run their library, but this deadline has now been extended.

Anita Wright, member of the Hay-on-Wye Library Supporters steering group, told The Bookseller: "There was a huge amount of concern in Hay about the future of our library and its dedicated staff which led to a meeting on the 17th October with over 70 people turning up. A steering group to co-ordinate our campaign was established with the initial, urgent aim of getting Powys to call off its proposed closure talks due to start on 31st October. Community response was overwhelming and by Monday morning Cllr Graham Brown, Portfolio Holder for Libraries found his email inbox overflowing.

"This pressure has resulted in Powys giving Hay Town Council more time to find a solution. Whilst this is good news we are not out of the woods yet."

Wright added: “Although Hay has a reputation as the Town of Books and for the Hay Festival, it is still a working rural town with a diverse community. Many of whom cannot afford to pay for the services that the library currently provides free – books, newspapers, computer access (particularly for job seekers) and the amazing advice and support from the library staff. While giving out leaflets and information in Hay market on Thursday local people talked about how the library was their lifeline – new, young parents who attend the story telling sessions, elderly folk who liked to drop in and read the papers and students and job seekers who regularly used the computers.”

Wright said that the next task for the campaign is to challenge how Powys has handled the consultation over the library service and to support the Town Council as it looks for alternatives.

Powys council cabinet member responsible for libraries, Graham Brown, has previously said the council has difficult decisions to make about its budget.

"As a council we've got to find nearly £30m savings over the next three years,” he told the BBC. “The library service itself has to find £250,000 savings," he said. "What we have been doing is looking at the service and trying to work with communities so that we can achieve these savings, while maintaining a service for these communities as well. It's not just Hay-on-Wye, but all branch libraries."