The Parish Council was very surprised to hear the East Sussex County Council (ESCC) announcement on 11 September 2017 that their cabinet would be asked to approve a consultation on library services which includes shutting seven of 24 libraries, one of which, sadly, is Mayfield. The Parish Council supports Mayfield Library and already contributes in the region of £3,000 annually towards staff costs. The following information has been received from ESCC Communities, Economy & Transport Department:
East Sussex Libraries – The Way Forward is a complete review of Library and Information Service and is the final part of their Libraries Transformation Programme. It is designed to deliver a modern and sustainable library service for the next five years, based on the needs of the people of East Sussex.
Libraries offer an affordable way for people to enjoy the pleasure of reading and access to culture, and they provide the knowledge, information and sources of inspiration to support and empower people to make transformational changes to their lives. Our Library and Information Service supports literacy, helps people get online and find work and new training opportunities, and provides all kinds of information, from health to hobbies.
Work to produce the proposed draft Strategy shows that there are still significant needs across the county, and especially within certain communities, around literacy, attainment, employment and ultimately health and wellbeing, which the Library and Information Service is ideally placed to help tackle.
Their proposals would modernise the East Sussex Library and Information Service in order to respond to these needs identified, as well as meeting the increasing demand from customers to access library services online. They would do this in two key ways:
- by enhancing the eLibrary, continuing to expand the growing range of online services and materials we offer
- by providing a greater focus on outreach provision in our most disadvantaged communities, working more closely with other County Council services and partners; this would enable us to use our limited resources more effectively to have the greatest impact for those people who stand to benefit most from the service, but may be less able or inclined to visit a library.
The number of people visiting and borrowing items from libraries has reduced by around 40% over the past ten years. The proposals would enable them to cut costs by having fewer libraries and prioritise resources to have a greater impact in supporting people in East Sussex. They propose:
- a network of 17 library buildings across the county, ensuring that there remains a very high level of accessibility to a library by public transport or by car within a reasonable journey time of 20-25 minutes. These 17 libraries are Battle, Bexhill, Crowborough, Eastbourne, Forest Row, Hailsham, Hampden Park, Hastings, Heathfield, Hollington, Lewes, Newhaven, Peacehaven, Rye, Seaford, Uckfield and Wadhurst.
- Seven of the current 24 libraries not be retained: These are Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Ringmer and Willingdon.
- to no longer provide the Mobile Library Service, or provide a supply of books for the Northiam Village Library. This proposal takes into account the fact that the 17 library buildings and the eLibrary provide a high level of accessibility to library services for rural communities, and are a more efficient way to meet needs for library services in these areas.
ESCC has given specific consideration in the proposed draft Strategy to potential options for the seven libraries that they do not propose to retain to be community run or community funded if there is a desire within communities for the libraries to continue to operate. These options include keeping the seven libraries within the East Sussex Library and Information Service if they can be funded wholly by communities or other organisations. Alternatively, communities or other groups or organisations may wish to take over the leases of buildings or purchase them (where this is possible) and run them as completely independent libraries or use them for other purposes. They would welcome the opportunity to discuss these options with you, or with anyone else in the community who may be interested in exploring these options.
On 19 September ESCC resolved to agree the draft Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy is publicly consulted on for a 12-week period from 21 September to 14 December 2017. They would like to hear from anyone with views about the proposed draft Strategy, particularly if they feel they would be affected by the proposals.
The Parish Council’s Community Development Committee discussed the proposed library closure at their meeting on Monday 18th September and agreed that that it is a valued community asset that should remain open but accepted that it might have to be run as a community organisation to keep it open. This option will be investigated further. At the time of writing this article, the consultation was not yet open. Details on the library consultation will be posted on the Parish Council website when further information is received.
UPDATE: The consultation period is now open. To read more as well as to find out how to submit your views, go to https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/draft-strategy/