Essex County Council are responsible for our libraries and the Chelmsford City Councillors (who are pictured) will be supporting efforts to involve the local community in both shaping and delivering future library provision in the City, with particular focus on tier 3 and 4 libraries.
What's the problem?
Whilst use of our e-library service has more than doubled in the last five years, traditional library use in Essex has "collapsed" over the past 10 years. Now compared with 2008, there are 31% fewer people using Essex libraries (or 100,000+) and loans are down 52%. Between 2012/13 and 2017/18, loans from Essex library services fell 43% from over 7.1m a year to fewer than 4.1m. The county currently has the second-highest number of libraries in the UK.
You can find the full document here: Essex Future Library Services Strategy.
Which libraries will we review?
Essex has the most amount of libraries of any one county and we will be looking to review one third of them. Twenty-five out of seventy-four libraries in Essex that will be included in the county-wide review. In Chelmsford, we will be looking at the libraries in Broomfield, Danbury, Galleywood, Stock and Writtle.
What we hope to achieve
Councillor Susan Barker cabinet member in charge of implementing the potential changes. She wants to see libraries with coffee shops and pre-school groups. She said: “We are not delivering what the public wants at the moment. That is why they are not in our libraries. Take Dunmow library. They have a few things in there but they still need more. But there is a district council officer in there, a tourist information in there, we have two small private rooms that can be hired out to groups, why can’t it also be a place where you can collect your Amazon parcel, why can’t you use your swipe card to get in? It works in other place why not in Essex?”
We want to create a library service with a wider appeal, one which is online 24-7, is faster, and offers users more choice. As well as taking into account the way society has changed, including as a result of new technologies available, it must offer value for money.
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. We want to introduce better library spaces where we do have them - smart, modern and comfortable - and where, for instance, you might be able to swipe in using a smart card, pick up parcels or bring your toddlers for rhyme time.
We also have to make sure that we continue to offer value for money. That may mean some libraries are not viable. But if that is the case, we want to talk to communities about how they can become involved and run a library service with our support. The consultation is the opportunity to feedback on our plans and make sure that views are heard and considered.
Have your say
A number of drop-in sessions are being held across the county as part of the consultation on the future of Essex's libraries. The Chelmsford drop-in will take place on Saturday 8th December from 11am – 3pm in Chelmsford Library. If you are unable to attend the drop-in session but would like to make your voice heard, please email your local councillor.