Essex

Essex libraries closures: Children protest against proposals

Library closure protest in Manningtree Image copyright Debbie Burrows
Image caption There were protests across Essex, including about 400 children and adults marching in Manningtree town centre

Children dressed up as book characters to march against the proposed closure of 25 libraries.

Conservative-run Essex County Council is reviewing how many of its 74 libraries it wants to keep or hand over to be run by community groups.

About 400 children and adults carried placards and musical instruments as they marched in Manningtree.

The council said library use was falling and a public consultation would be reviewed before any final decision.

The consultation on the plans ran from November until February and the council said it was analysing 21,000 responses.

Image caption Under the proposals, the nearest library to Manningtree which is guaranteed to remain open would be the main one in Colchester town centre

Other marches, not specifically for children, were also organised at the weekend by the Save Our Libraries Essex (Sole) group in Colchester, Castle Point, Coggeshall, Chelmsford, Walton-on-the-Naze, Holland-on-Sea and Harlow.

Emma Batrick, from Sole, said: "We are stepping up our campaign to show how people feel about an act of cultural vandalism that will rip the heart out of local communities."

Image copyright Debbie Burrows
Image caption The council proposes that a community group needs to be found to run Manningtree Library

On the Manningtree march, Edward, aged 5, said: "If it closed, we can't have any books any more and I would be sad."

Annie, 2, said: "I like the library because we get books there and we sing songs and listen to stories."

The council's plans for its 74 libraries include:

  • 15 libraries to be retained and managed by the council
  • 15 libraries to be run in a partnership between the council and a community group or other organisation
  • 19 libraries to be run solely by a community group with council "support"
  • 25 libraries to be closed "but we will consider proposals for community libraries"

Full list of which category each library falls in is available on the Essex County Council website

Image copyright Debbie Burrows
Image caption Children, dressed as their favourite book characters, made placards at a workshop ahead of the march in Manningtree

The council's consultation said "society has changed and library use has slumped in the past 10 years".

"This mean that, given the pressure on public finances, the current service isn't viable," it said.

A council spokesman said no decisions would be made until it considered the final shape of the strategy in the summer.

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