Highbridge and Burnham-On-Sea residents are being urged to have their say from today (Monday) on controversial proposals to cut library services across Somerset – which include the possible closure of Highbridge Library.
As first reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com, Somerset County Council says Highbridge Library could close under its cost-cutting proposals unless local volunteers are found to keep it open.
A report considered by county councillors says the cutbacks are expected to deliver between £300,000 and £520,000 of annual savings across Somerset.
The council says that Highbridge Library has a catchment population of 6,786 people, but it has just 288 active borrowers, and an annual footfall of 3,786 people.
However, Highbridge town councillor Cllr John Parkes, right, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “I am very concerned about the future for Highbridge Library and would encourage local people to have their say.”
“The number of users has decreased because Highbridge Library’s opening hours have been cut back to just nine and a half hours a week. It’s no longer open outside normal working hours, or when children want to use it after school, so of course the usage figures are low.”
“I’m also told by several users that the computers often don’t work, so the library is not a reliable place to go for online job hunting. People don’t return there if the computers are not working.”
He added: “Given that Highbridge’s only secondary school, King Alfred School, is improving after a poor OFSTED you would hope that it’s more important than ever for Somerset County Council to help improve young people’s literacy by providing a library here.”
“Also, while Somerset County Council’s hopes of finding volunteers are admirable, that only works as a long-term plan if they are able to find enough of them and have the capacity to train them in the future.”
Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development, Cllr David Hall, right, says: “These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long-term, whilst still delivering a modern thriving library service across our County.”
“Library services will continue across Somerset whatever the response from this consultation, but our proposals highlight that keeping some libraries open may require community support. Where we are unable to keep libraries open, we will deliver library services in other ways such as via alternative venues or mobile library services.”
“I would stress that no decision about the future delivery of library services in any community has been taken and no decision will be made until the results of this consultation have been fully analysed. Please take the opportunity to submit your views on the proposals and offer your ideas or suggestions for any alternative proposals you may have.”
In the council report, the council adds that Burnham-On-Sea Library, right, has a catchment population of 37,078 people with 3,270 active borrowers, and an annual footfall of 67,745 people.
The council concludes: “Existing library services will continue to be provided at Burnham-On-Sea Library.”
“We will continue to explore the potential to share space with other organisations and/or partners, in order to save money.”
For Highbridge Library, the council proposes to “provide library services through either a partnership with the local community to maintain a library building in Highbridge; or by delivering outreach library services such as events, activities, small book collections and/or public computer terminals via alternative venues.”
Somerset County Council’s consultation on the future of how its library services can be delivered runs from 29th January for 12 weeks and can be accessed at: www.somerset.gov.uk/librariesconsultation.
A consultation drop-in session will also be held at Highbridge Library on Thursday 15th February from 10am – 1pm when users can find out more about the plans.
Members of the public, businesses and organisations are being invited to have their say. There are Somerset library service proposals for nine areas in total available to view. Anyone taking part in the consultation will be asked to view the area of the library they visit most often before completing a questionnaire asking for their views on the proposals.