Leicestershire proposes major library cutbacks

Leicestershire proposes major library cutbacks

Leicestershire County Council has proposed handing control of 37 libraries to parish councils and volunteer groups, with just 16 bigger libraries still under council control.

The Leicester Mercury reported that a petition has been launched against the cuts, which some fear could lead to library closures if “no-one comes forward to run them”.

Matthew O'Callaghan, Labour parliamentary candidate for Loughborough and a Melton borough councillor, told the newspaper: "Libraries are an essential part of our communities and should continue to be run and staffed by the county council.

"Often, they are the only local service in many villages."

The council's cabinet will finalise details of its plan on March 5. It will then be put out to public consultation from April.

Cllr Richard Blunt, cabinet member for libraries, said the “rumours that libraries will close is nothing but scaremongering”.

He said: “We are legally required to provide a free library service and that will continue.
“These changes would empower communities to have much more say in what they want from their libraries.”

In a separate development today (26th February) the Society of Chief Librarians has been awarded a grant of £196,110 through Arts Council England to work with communities on a Digital War Memorial.

SCL will work with We Are What We Do, which is behind online community archive Historypin, to create a dedicated public library area within Historypin for the project, and will also work with the British Library and the Imperial War Museum.

From March 2014 public libraries will commission artists to work with community groups on 10 projects in Devon, Lancashire, Leeds, London Borough of Brent, Newcastle, Norfolk, North Tyneside, Rochdale, Staffordshire and Stockton upon Tees, with the first digital content ready for the start of commemorations of the First World War in August.

Janene Cox, SCL president, said: “This project will connect the current strengths of libraries in the area of digital information with the opportunity to develop creative digital content and increase the confidence of library staff to engage with this fast developing aspect of cultural activity.”

Brian Ashley, director of libraries at Arts Council England, said: “The Arts Council is pleased to support this exciting and innovative project that will use the vast collections in libraries and engage a diverse range of community groups. Alongside a range of other projects it will make a significant contribution towards the WW1 commemorations. Like libraries themselves, the project will bridge generational and social divides and inspire debate and learning.”