A third of Essex’s libraries could close by 2024 as a result of a ‘collapse’ in library usage.
Essex County Council revealed its plans last Thursday and suggested an online-service, 24hours a day, 7 days a week instead. According to the council, the number of borrowed books has halved, which makes the libraries ‘no longer viable’ in their present traditional form.
‘Technology has transformed how people read books and access information and entertainment, which is why we must look critically at our current library locations and respond to these changes,’ said Councillor Susan Barker, Cabinet member for Customer Services. But while the closure will reduce Essex’s spending with 2 million, it will affect 11% of active library users.
The local authority believe small libraries should stay open but would do so only with ‘volunteer support’ from communities. Many of the public bodies are currently open up to 50 hours a week, which will be reduced to 32.
Mrs. Barker couldn’t confirm whether any staff would lose their jobs. ‘This is a consultation and until we have spoken to all our communities, come up with ideas, improvements and solutions we don’t know – but we will be asking staff to work in a different way’.
Essex’s proposals will be considered by the council’s cabinet. At the same time, people can have their say on the future of libraries during a consultation held at every local library from 29 November 2018 to 20 February 2019.
According to the most recent official figures, more than 100 libraries were closed in the UK in 2017.
‘Society has changed; libraries are not used by the majority of our residents. And of those residents who are library users, only one in five is an active library user,’ said Mrs. Barker.