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'Read-in' protest against plans to close Plymouth library

Protesters staged a ‘read-in’ at a Plymouth library this weekend, as part of their campaign to save the community resource from closure.

Peverell Library is one of the ten libaries which look set be axed as Plymouth City Council looks to transfer services online and move libraries of out of “under-used and expensive” community buildings.

Last month angry library users accused council bosses of “ripping the heart out of the community” during a heated and chaotic public meeting.

Amid cries of “rubbish” and “we don’t believe you”, Plymouth City Council representatives attempted to explain why ten Plymouth libraries are under threat of closure.

Cllr Glenn Jordan (below), Conservative cabinet member for culture, admitted: “If we close this building the service is not going to be as good. Whatever replaces this would not be as good because it won’t be permanent.”

On Saturday, library users made their feelings known again, albeit in a more genteel fashion, by staging a ‘read-in’ at Peverell Library.

Libraries in Efford, Eggbuckland, Ernesettle, Estover, Laira, North Prospect, Stoke, Tothill and West Park could also close their doors under the new proposals.

Plymouth City Council says the move, open for public consultation from next week, is designed to “transform and modernise” library services by embracing the “digital world”.

The seven surviving libraries – Crownhill, Devonport, Plympton, Plymstock, St Budeaux, Southway and the Central Library – currently account for 80 per cent of all visits and 75 per cent of all items borrowed.

READ MORE: Library memberships double as Plymouth people rediscover love of reading

They will be refurbished and kitted out with new computers, meeting rooms and fully-trained staff.

There will also be pop-up libraries across the city; a “click-and-collect” service in children’s centres and community hubs; and an expanded home library service for housebound residents.

The announcement came on the same day work formally began on the city’s new multi-million-pound History Centre, which has taken over the grand former Central Library and City Museum building.

Glenn Jordan, cabinet member for culture, said: “The way people use library services is changing, but we haven’t altered our library network in more than 15 years.

“Many of our libraries are under-used with little or no scope for development, but changes in technology mean we don’t need to be constrained by our buildings; services can be delivered online and out in communities.”

Ten Plymouth libraries (above) have been identified as “under-used and expensive to run”

Council leader Ian Bowyer says the plans are not necessarily about saving money, insisting many existing library buildings are not fit for purpose and something has to give.

“This is about investing in a modern library service, not cutting libraries,” he said.

“The end result will be a better offer to people, that’s the point we have got to get across.

VIDEO: Take a 3D virtual tour of Plymouth’s new Central Library before it opens

“This is a consultation, no decisions have been made at any political level.

“We genuinely want to hear from people so we can come up with a rational response.”

North Prospect Library (above) is among ten earmarked for closure

In their medium-term financial strategy presented back in September, the Tories identified they could save £48,000 from cuts to the library service.

But today Cllr Bowyer said he cannot yet put a figure on how much money would be saved by closing the 10 libraries.

Nor is he able to specify how much cash will be invested in the seven remaining buildings.

“Until we get the green light from the local community that they support us, it’s hard to put a figure on it,” he said.

“There are implications for next year’s budget, but this is driven by modernisation and transformation.”

Cllr Jordan added: “If anybody thinks transformation and change is just about saving money, they are wrong.

“It’s about improving and modernising the service.

“They may be a saving, but if the only thing you’re trying to do is save money, you’re definitely going into it with the wrong mindset.”

Faye Batchelor-Hambleton, assistant director for customer services, said: “Our challenge is to provide a delivery model that offers consistency, value for money and meets the ever-changing needs of our customers.

“The new Central Library has been a tremendous success with increased visits, new members, computer use and book lending compared to the old library in North Hill.

“This proves that we must invest in buildings in the right locations to keep physical libraries relevant, accessible and sustainable for the future.”

The draft plan for libraries is available to view at plymouth.gov.uk/planforlibraries.

The consultation opens at 9am on Wednesday, January 25 and runs until Wednesday, April 19.

The plan will also be available to view at all city libraries, and there will be public meetings and drop-in sessions where people can ask questions of councillors.

The current library network:

Central Library

Crownhill

Devonport

Efford

Eggbuckland

Ernesettle

Estover

Laira

North Prospect

Peverell

Plympton

Plymstock

Southway

St Budeaux

Stoke

Tothill

West Park

Proposed library network:

Central Library

Crownhill

Devonport

Plympton

Plymstock

St Budeaux

Southway

Libraries: the facts and figures

  • 1 million people use Plymouth’s library services every year
  • Seven libraries account for 80 per cent of all visits, 75 per cent of all items borrowed, and 75 per cent of attendance at library events or activities
  • At 10 of Plymouth’s libraries, more eBooks than printed books are borrowed every year
  • The cost per visit to existing libraries ranges from 93p to £28.26
  • The council says most residents should still be within two miles of a library
  • The plan for libraries runs until 2020

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