Emsworth Library under threat of closure
Message from the Chairman
Just as we were celebrating the agreement to move the Emsworth Surgery into the hospital, we have been hit by the news that Hampshire County Council (HCC) is conducting a consultation exercise on proposals to change its Library Services which include the possibility of closing the library in Emsworth.
We believe that if this were to happen it would be a major blow to the town and its residents, and we need to make a robust and well-argued response.
HCC needs to find savings of £80 million by April 2021 and the Library Services contribution is £1.76m. They propose to achieve this by closing up to 10 libraries and/or reducing staffed opening hours. The reasons that Emsworth has been included in the list of 10 libraries identified for possible closure (see p15 of the report) is a lower number of visits and a higher than average cost per open hour.
Emsworth Library is in the centre of the town and the premises are leasehold, and so relatively expensive compared to some other libraries in the county. HCC also argues that Emsworth is within the catchment area of Havant Library, which can in theory be reached within 20-30 minutes by car or using public transport. They acknowledge however that 38% of our population is over 65 and that many would find this difficult.
Emsworth Library was used by 2,227 of its members last year, with 62% of them only visiting this library. This is a substantial proportion of our population.
The report says that their first priority is to promote reading and develop children’s literacy but does not describe all the support Emsworth Library gives to schools, children and community groups. In my view, the library is a very valuable asset for the community, and it would be a major loss to the town and its residents if it were to close.
HCC’s Library Service Consultation report is here https://documents.hants.gov.uk/consultation/libraries-info-booklet.pdf and copies are available in Emsworth Library.
The consultation began yesterday, Thursday 9 January, and runs to Wednesday 18 March.
What you can do
If you value our library you need to demonstrate this by responding to the consultation, you can:
– Give your views online at www.hants.gov.uk/library-consultation, or
– complete a paper copy of the form available from Emsworth Library.
On Friday 14 February, between 2pm and 6pm, there is a HCC run Public Drop-In session at Emsworth Library.
What we are doing
A working group of Emsworth’s representative associations has already formed and will develop constructive proposals to avert this threat to Emsworth and its residents.
As the report states, HCC’s second priority is to support healthy, creative communities, which will include establishing council-run libraries as “community hubs”. We need to take them at their word and consider alternative accommodation for the library in Emsworth that would reduce its cost and increase community support.
We will keep you informed about our activities through The Ems newspaper, social media and publicity materials distributed in the town.