Campaigners to save Lincolnshire’s libraries from the County Council’s plans to scale down the service and save almost £2 million warned that parts of the county could become ‘library deserts’.
These proposed cuts could lead to 170 jobs losses and only 15 fully staffed libraries would remain under council administration, down from 44, with many set to get only part-time opening hours or be replaced by a mobile library visiting once per month.
Paul Stainthorp, E-Resources Librarian at the University of Lincoln, has set up the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign group independently from his day job.
The group also has a Twitter account, and will soon have a website up and running to promote their campaign.
Paul Stainthorp said: “Through conversations with people on Twitter and Facebook, there’s a lot of anger about it and a lot of people who feel that something needs to be done, so it was about taking the first step and not waiting around.
Paul has read though most of the 120-page proposals document, and believes a few of the ideas are concerning for local communities in the county:
“My initial reaction was shock — we know this has happened in other parts of the country, and libraries are under threat, but I thought Lincolnshire was safe. I thought library services in Lincolnshire were small enough and efficient enough to escape this.
“Based on first impressions, the things that stand out are the proposals to cut the schools’ library budget to zero, so there’ll be no money allocated at all to provide a library service to schools, which is quite shocking. Also, because Lincolnshire is a such big rural county, it leaves whole areas with no coverage at all.
“I think Lincolnshire will be immeasurably worse off [without library services]. I think that certain areas may be lucky enough to have volunteers that are willing to take on some of this work, but other parts of the county won’t have that level of support, and there will be ‘library deserts’ in entire parts of the county.
“In the future, my fear is there will be young people who don’t have the opportunity to visit a library until they go to university. It means students will go to university without the skills to find and use information.”
He added: “I use my own public library service. I have children who borrow books from the library — this is how I taught my children to read. I use the library computers to access family history information — you can’t get this online or elsewhere for free. My own local library is under threat, and my own town would be a lot worse off without that service.”
Lincolnshire County Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, argued when the plans were announced last week: “In Lincolnshire, 82% of the population are not active borrowers, and book stock issued in the county in the last 10 years has dropped from 5 million to under 3 million.
“Smartphones, tablets, Kindles and new technology are changing the way we do things. The library service is changing, like it or not, and our vision for the future of the service is a comprehensive one, but one that remains both affordable and efficient.
“Despite the need for change, our ambition is to keep all of Lincolnshire’s libraries open. However, this is only going to work with the support of our local communities.
“We will support residents and organisations that step forward and lend a hand. And by getting them more involved we think we can actually create a library service that’s better tailored to each community’s individual needs.”