Victorian library 'should not be moved by council'

William Salt Library The collection has been based in the building for almost a century

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Campaigners are fighting plans to relocate a Victorian research library from the building where it has been based for nearly a century.

The Friends of the William Salt Library in Stafford say they are worried the collection's identity will be lost if it is moved into the Staffordshire Record Office.

Staffordshire County Council's cabinet approved the plans earlier.

A representative said the proposals would improve access to the collection.

The council estimates it pays about £75,000 a year to maintain the building, on Eastgate Street.

Behind the scenes at the library

John Thaw and Colin Dexter
  • The collection, which the Friends say is one of only a few Victorian research libraries left in the country, was begun by William Salt, whose family came from Staffordshire
  • Many of the books, pamphlets, manuscripts, drawings and watercolours focus on Staffordshire's history
  • It includes documents relating to Josiah Wedgwood, former Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel and Charles Darwin, among others
  • Fans of the library include Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse books, who set one of his novels on the canal at Rugeley

It wants to move the collection, which was built up during the lifetime of William Salt, a Victorian banker, into a £4.5m extension to the record office.

It hopes to apply for Heritage Lottery funding to carry out the project.

The library is administered by an independent trust. The chairman said it supported the plans.

However, Mary Dodkins, secretary of the Friends of William Salt, which helps preserve the collection and the building, said the collection has been housed in its current base since 1919.

"We began to hear mutterings about the removal of the collection in 2012 but the friends were not consulted. It's an absolutely beautiful building but the council hasn't kept it in very good repair," she said.

"The collection does need to be moved somewhere because the conditions in the current building are not good for it, but we have alternative plans and are in talks with the trustees.

"We are very concerned the identity of the collection will be lost in the record office."

However, John Giffard, chair of the William Salt Library Trust said: "We are fully behind the proposals.

"The new site will include purpose-built rooms to provide the correct environmental conditions, and a modern automatic fire extinguisher system. The trust will be working with the county council to ensure that the library retains its own identity within the new facility."

County councillor Mike Lawrence added: "These exciting proposals will help protect the collections for many years to come."

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