Residents in Lincolnshire are firmly against proposals to shut down a number of the county’s libraries, a consultation report found.
The consultation was in response to Lincolnshire County Council’s proposals to close 30 libraries in favour of mobile libraries or community-led library services, leading to the loss of around 170 jobs in order to make £2 million savings.
The results, analysed by experts independently at Sheffield Hallam University, found that the overwhelming majority of respondents were against the proposals.
The consultation has cost the County Council approximately £50,000 to complete.
The consultation report noted that only 1% of the county responded to the consultation, but added this was a typical percentage for library consultation documents.
Of those taking part, 81% described themselves as library users.
The results were complied using responses and comments from the online and hard copy surveys, dedicated website and information packs, consultation events, petitions, and consultations and surveys with children and young people.
There were 6,000 responses to the consultation, and over 22,000 qualitative comments from the petitions received.
Additionally, there were 8,000 contributions, 7,095 visits to the consultation webpage, 902 downloads of info packs, 931 downloads of consultations, over 600 letters and emails, and 283 tweets directed at the county council in response to the proposals.
Despite this, students, the under 50s, non-library users and males were found to be under-represented in the consultation.
Analysing the comments, the majority said they were angry, frustrated and upset at the proposals, and found the consultation inadequate to communicate feelings properly.
Respondents felt the cuts were highly unfair and short-sighted of the council, and would have a great impact on young people now and in the future.
A number also highlighted that the libraries were more than just a service to a number of areas, but a community hub and social centre.
Overall, 63% felt that the changes to their local library would have a massive impact on them personally, particularly in areas where Tier 4 (monthly one-hour mobile library stop) has been proposed, and 68% felt it would have a serious impact on the local community.
Respondents cited opening hours and travel times as the most important aspects of library usage.
Finally, only 8.2% said they would consider volunteering at their lib ray, with 21% considering it. It is felt that many possibly said no as they would rather see their library stay the same.
Taken into account
Councillors on the County Council’s Scrutiny Committee felt that the consultation form was confusing for residents, there was not enough promotion of the consultation and there was no option to see no changes to their library.
One councillor also mentioned they were angry that the committee’s previous decision to change the consultation document had been ignored.
However, the council’s Head of Libraries and Heritage, Jonathan Platt, said he will now take into account the responses to the proposals to account for the planning of the services’ future.
Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “There’s been a good response form those that use the libraries.
“Though it is a disappointing response from everyone else — you have 1% of the entire population of Lincolnshire that responded so 99% haven’t responded at all.
“Those who are passionate about the libraries have put in some good response which we will react to, but obviously it would’ve been nice to have the 99%’s views as well.
“I was surprised at how many hadn’t engaged in the consultation considering how much press this has received.”
“I think there will definitely be some changes to the original proposal.”
He added: “I think the things that stand out for me are probably the comments that the libraries were seen as not just a place for books, but a community hub in the heart of the community, which we will take up as that’s very much where we were going with the community-run libraries.
“We’ve had a good response in terms of expression of interest — we’ve had 42 expressions of interest [in running a library]. That shows there’s clearly a demand from the community to run their libraries; they’re passionate and they don’t want to lose them so they are determined they are going to run them.
“We’ll have to put more support and effort into making sure those libraries are successful.
“There were also issues around opening times so we’ll have to be a bit more flexible with opening hours.
“The 30-minute drive time was also an issue, so we’ll be speaking to bus companies to see how we can work around that.
“Initially, there will be some changes as a result of this consultation. It’s been useful, if not a big surprise to anyone.”
The Scrutiny Committee recommended the Executive on December 3 to consider the results coming from the consultation before making their final decision.