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Lib Dems fighting for libraries

February 15, 2021 7:50 PM
By Gary MacDonnell
Cllr Barry Aspinell and Gary MacDonnell (Karen Chilvers)

Cllr Barry Aspinell and Gary MacDonnell campaigning to save Shenfield Library in 2019

When Local Authorities are looking around for spending cuts library services are normally somewhere close to the front of the queue. This is wrong and short sighted.

I have seen recently the tremendous work done by the community working together to save Shenfield library. It does appear that this facility has been given a lifeline with a properly planned and resourced library service included in the redesign for the site. Promises have been made and we know that the local community will hold local politicians to account over those promises. But it should never have come to this position whereby the community were forced to come together and fight to retain a statutory service.

Libraries are important. They are cornerstones of a healthy community. Libraries give people the opportunity to find jobs, explore medical research, experience new ideas, get lost in wonderful stories, while at the same time providing a sense of place for gathering. Libraries contribute to the health of individuals and the community by providing a welcoming environment where people can learn in their own time and on their own terms. Libraries are a unique and valuable resource.

The Liberal Democrats wholeheartedly support the UK library and information associations 'My Library By Right campaign.' Libraries are a statutory service and recognising this is an important step in ensuring that they are available to everyone.

Of course, like everything, libraries must evolve. The internet does much of the heavy lifting for doing research. I have seen my local library, Shenfield, at times transformed as it runs sessions for children and parents amongst other things. Libraries elsewhere have successfully introduced places to buy coffee and snacks. Others have formal meeting areas for hire. The days of entering the library and being immediately 'ssssshed' for making the slightest sound are probably gone, no bad thing either. The modern library is a more dynamic space, but all provide that silent space for reading and contemplation.

Recently we have seen numerous libraries being, managed and staffed by volunteers. I tip my hat to all those community minded people who keep libraries alive by volunteering. As stated above libraries are unique and a statutory service. A council wouldn't dream of transferring any other statutory service over to volunteers. Whilst I'm sure that a Conservative think tank somewhere has discussed it, imagine the outrage if Social Care, Planning or nvironmental Health was run on a volunteer basis? Whilst researching the topic of volunteer libraries I was struck by local authorities who follow this route and advertise for volunteers to come forward, make it front and centre about what good such volunteers will be doing for their communities, highlighting the importance of the service that has seen its funding cut. It's almost as if the library services should be properly resourced.

Your local Liberal Democrats will fight to ensure all library services remain in place and available to the communities they serve.

Gary MacDonnell is Chair of Brentwood Liberal Democrats and our candidate for the 2021 Borough Council election for Shenfield Ward. You can contact him at gary.macdonnell@brentwoodlibdems.org.uk