The proposal to withdraw support for 30 Lincolnshire libraries, as well as 286 mobile library stops is disproportionate to the £2 million per year savings made.
As we know, the County Council has a statutory duty to provide a service that is efficient and comprehensive, which everyone can access. Therefore, anyone who cannot get to their library and wants to borrow a book is entitled to a home service. So the saving may well not be there at all.
Libraries are not just book depositories. We already include volunteers in many of our libraries. Libraries are a much wider service which needs to be professional in terms of skills, responsibility in managing people and wide training needed to cover the range of work.
At the last reduction in 2008, Branston Library went from 103,000 visits per year to around 25-35,000 it gets now, after its hours were drastically cut. This proposal is a further cut to a service that is already a very cost-effective “lean machine”.
The last review looked at the cost-effectiveness of each library, in £ per unit use. Branston scored very highly. Libraries with partnership arrangements often lever in huge additional benefits and money. This cannot be easily ignored or cast aside.
For example, the Academy at Branston invests a huge sum every year in Branston Library. They provide the building and its maintenance, heating, lighting and cleaning. Doubling up with public use makes perfect sense.
Other partners include NKDC, and some services can be accessed from here, including access to planning applications, electoral register and information.
The Parish Council, Police, grant-giving bodies and benefits service all hold surgeries here, using the private counselling room as required. This assists in the rewiring to provide “joined-up” public services, moving us in the direction we want to go.
The Library is also a Learn Direct computer training centre for the public. As the government wants us to move towards on line benefit claims, this will be increasingly important, helping prevent people from getting into much greater difficulties. That would also have knock-on costs for us, especially if children are involved.
Branston Library is very well situated, being adjacent to the pre-school, secondary school, swimming pool and leisure facilities, youth centre and very close to the junior school and shopping and health centre. It is also adjacent to two housing estates, one of which has a high level of needs. Feedback is very positive.
So it is a well-used, cost-effective “front door” to our council and other services.
— Editor’s note: This is an adapted version of an open letter sent by Marianne Overton to Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Libraries at Lincolnshire County Council.
Marianne Overton is the Independent County and District Councillor for Navenby and Branston District and the Cliff Villages. Also leader of the Lincolnshire Independents, a county-wide support network. Twice elected national Leader of the Independent Group of councillors for England and Wales and Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association.