Plans for the future of Essex's libraries revealed

16 July 2019, 08:25 | Updated: 16 July 2019, 08:27

Libraries to be run by trusts

After confirming last week that it won't close any libraries, Essex County Council has outlined its plan for their future.

Some will be taken over by community groups and organisations including parish councils, residents' associations, pre-schools and village hall trusts.

Those wishing to take over the delivery of library services will be offered a support package.

This includes grant funding of £18k over three years, an initial donation of books, refresh of reading materials and support to community-run library groups to train volunteers.

Aside from community libraries, there will be investment in council-run library services.

The County Council says it will be:

- Refurbishing Council-run libraries to deliver a consistent high-quality look and feel across the Council-run network.
- Upskilling staff to improve the service to users
- Embracing new technology and 'smart libraries' functionality that enables users to choose when and how they access books and learning materials.

Cabinet Member for Customer, Corporate, Culture and Communities Cllr Susan Barker said: "I am pleased to share with everyone our plans for future of the library service in more detail.

"What is clear since we launched the public consultation is local libraries are important to residents, not just as places to get books or use a computer, but as spaces for people to meet, learn and exchange ideas.

"Following the consultation, which showed the sheer passion of communities to keep their local library, we have changed the strategy accordingly.

"The strategy now commits to no libraries closing within 5 years. By working with communities we can now keep a library service in every current location. The strategy also aims to revitalise the service through investment.

"The service in its current form isn't working and we know that there are better ways to run it. We are still concerned about the declining use but believe a combination of Council-run and community-run libraries offer the best hope to reverse the trend.

"The future of Essex Libraries is bright. This is a new, exciting chapter for the service that will be a service fit for the 21st century and that is genuinely in the hands of communities and local users, who can help mould it to what they want and need."