Thanks to everyone who signed the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries petition as I lurked in the snow and ice over Christmas (!)
On 5 January I joined FoGL ( ( www.foclibrary.wordpress.com ) supporters to hand in to Shire Hall a 10,600 signature petition. It asks Gloucestershire County Council to review proposed 43% cuts to Gloucestershire libraries. GCC’s plan is based on an earlier ‘consultation’ with less than 1% of Gloucestershire people. Other county services will be cut by ‘only’ 28%.
Bourton on the Water library is the local library for everyone in Northleach and surrounding villages. It faces being reduced to a ‘Library Link’. It will have a tiny book stock, ‘self service’ lending, library staff on site for only three hours a week – and absolute dependence on a ‘partner’ and volunteers to keep the Library Link open at all.
Mobile and Homelink (housebound/care home) Services are to be axed.
Bourton has been my local library for 15 years. If it’s not available – and I fear GCC’s hidden plan is to close many libraries altogether, for ever – then for me it’s a 24 mile round trip (half a day on buses, and dangerous walking beside main roads) to Stow, Cirencester or Cheltenham.
We risk losing all those free or cheap library services, from DVD and games hire to magazines, children’s books and computer/internet access. Just when family budgets get so tight they squeak, we won’t be able to borrow books – just buy them....
• Bourton Library serves surrounding communities where public transport doesn’t reach. Many of us already struggle to get to a library – what are we supposed to do without Mobile and Homelink services?
• It’s nearly impossible to reach other libraries without a car, anyway. Lots of people around Northleach don’t have cars, or the internet, or cosy green wellie lifestyles. You just try waiting for and getting on a bus with toddlers in tow, or you’re elderly or disabled, or you’ve just got a bad back like I had all over Xmas! Nightmare!
And even if you can drive, all the workaday and tourist traffic makes it hard to park anywhere near a main library. If you can afford the parking fees. You probably won’t be cycling the A429 Fosse Way, or the A40, much less your children… So: more driving. More wearing out of roads. More damage to our environment. Hmm…
• If you work 9-5, could you get to a library between 9am-5pm or 10am-6pm? These are the weekday opening hours proposed for ALL Gloucestershire libraries. Or have you got time for a library visit 9am-1pm on your hectic Saturday mornings?
• A ‘self service’ Library Link would be a high risk environment. Who will supervise safety? Who will supervise children? Who will prevent theft of stock including games and DVDs?
• When Bourton library user numbers fall and security problems increase, probably within 2 years, I believe GCC will seize the chance to close Bourton Library for ever.
• Have you got the time or wealth to work unpaid? Librarians need many skills. Do you know stock management, the Dewey Decimal catalogue system, book search and ordering, and information technology? Are you excellent at customer care? Who will pay for volunteers’ training? Who will pay for volunteers’ CRB checks and how often will these be renewed?
- By the way, GCC costings given to Parish Councils about taking on link/volunteer libraries are said to be incomplete or inaccurate.
• Is it right for library staff to lose their jobs and then to be replaced by unpaid, unskilled volunteers?
While all county services must make savings, libraries cost only 1.46% of total GCC budget spending – yet are facing 2.3% of total cuts. This is unfair, too much and too fast.
What you can do
• Sign the continuing petition either on paper or online at www.foclibrary.wordpress.com . This site updates almost daily about campaign actions and GCC responses. FoGL hopes to hold a Celebration of Libraries on Saturday 5 February.
• Tell your family, friends and neighbours about Bourton Library and about the threats to Gloucestershire libraries in general. Involve your sports or social club. Go to council meetings! Ask questions! Be fully informed by reading GCC’s Libraries Proposal at www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mtclibraries or call 01452 425000 to get a copy posted to you.
• Write, phone or email your objections as a Bourton library user to Bourton Parish Council, Council Offices, 8 Victoria Street, Bourton on the Water GL54 2BT. Email email@example.com . Tel 01451 820712 Tues, Weds, Thurs 12.30-3.30pm.
• Contact your District Councillors at Cotswold District Council.
- For Northleach with Eastington: Mark Tufnell. Tel 01285 623888. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Sheila Jeffery: tel 01451 822548, email email@example.com
- For Bourton on the Water (contact as a Bourton library user) Len Wilkins: tel 01451 821063, email firstname.lastname@example.org . Postal addresses on the CDC website http://www.cotswold.gov.uk/nqcontent.cfm?a_id=1948&tt=cotswold . Or phone CDC on 01285 623000.
• Contact your Gloucestershire County Councillor – Cllr. Fiona McKenzie (Conservative). Tel 01242 890451 . Email: email@example.com . Postal address from http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=168 or phone Gloucestershire County Council 01452 425000.
• Contact your MP: Geoffrey Clifton Brown. His constituency office address is Unit 1143 Regent Court, Gloucester Business Park, Hucclecote GL3 4AD. Tel 01452 371630. Email: CLIFTONBROWNG@parliament.uk .
If Bourton on the Water reduces or loses its library service, life for people in Northleach and surrounding communities will be poorer. Your children’s life chances will be damaged. PLEASE – stand up for fairer cuts. Ask Bourton Parish Council NOT to take on the expensive liability of a Library Link.
“Our libraries didn’t even close during World War 2,” a Gloucestershire senior citizen said. Shall we now submit to government measures that not even the Nazis could force upon us?
More information at:
Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries www.foclibrary.wordpress.com
About Chloë: www.midnightstorytellers.co.uk