Brief Update on Status of Minchinhampton Library

Following the judge’s decision regarding the illegality of GCC trying to close our libraries, at the end of last year a small group of FoML members met with Stephen Draper (Chair of the Parish Council Steering Committee on the Future of the Library).  FoML gave Stephen some very telling statistics regarding the profile of residents of Minchinhampton to make a very strong case on the grounds of equality that Minchinhampton Library should remain within the Public Library Service.  Stephen immediately sent a communication to GCC saying that on the grounds of equality we would like GCC to totally review their decision to withdraw Public Library status for Minchinhampton and replace it with Community Library status.  However, we hear that Nick Hirst, the Chairman of MPC, still favours a digital virtual reality modernisation of the library service, although FoML consistently points out that this does not actually fit with the needs of current library users in Minchinhampton.

Additionally, there was a very positive meeting between John Holland and Demelza of the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and the Officers of GCC – Jo Grills & Duncan Jordan, newly appointed to oversee the library changes.  Here is an extra from the summary of the meeting:

“The meeting felt quite positive. We were able to put across the concerns which many of you have shared with us about the process last time round, and make some suggestions for how things could be done better this time – they seemed to take many of our comments on board and took copious notes.

Jo confirmed that the council will be in ongoing discussions with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission before the new strategy is announced on January 20th, and that a new needs analysis for the service is being undertaken at present. A consultation process will follow the January 20th announcement.

We left the meeting feeling that Jo is committed to getting things right this time, although of course, she is not the only person involved so vigilance in all of our local communities is still needed, and we believe local community groups should continue to take John’s advice (given at the public meeting) to get in touch with GCC now to ensure they are aware of the needs within your community, rather than waiting for the post-strategy consultation.

 More than anything else we were relieved to finally be involved in a constructive dialogue, something that has been entirely missing so far, and hope this is the start of a much better relationship going forward.”

So wait to see what the new library proposals of 20th January 2012 will be and we hope that good sense will prevail and Minchinhampton Library will remain open as a Public Library.

If you would like to write to GCC with your concerns please email

Jo Grills     jo.grills@gloucestershire.gov.uk

here is a summary of the 14th December Public Meeting that may be of help in writing your email:

A public meeting was held in Gloucester last night to discuss the future of the public library service in the county. Library users came from many different communities

across Gloucestershire. In a packed meeting hall at the GAVCA offices on Eastgate Street, the front row was reserved for invited senior members of the County Council administration.  Several speakers expressed their disappointment that

Gloucestershire County Council administration and officers responsible for library services had declined an invitation to the meeting. The meeting was being held following the recent High Court ruling that the County Council’s proposed changes to the library service were illegal, and had completely quashed all the council’s cuts to library services. The news that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been called in to help ensure that the Council comply with equality legislation when drawing up their revised library strategy was warmly welcomed.

But many serious concerns were raised, including –

Why is the County Council refusing to talk to users until after they have drawn up their proposals in January?

Would the date for the new library proposals of 20 January 2012 really allow the council time to conduct a through, equaitbale and lawful review?

Why is the council still promoting community funded and run libraries despite the fact that the judge had declared the proposals to be illegal?

Why had the County Council spent over £100,000 on legal fees and gone to the High Court instead of listening to the views of the people of Gloucestershire?

Why did the County Council make staff redundant before the High Court ruling, with the same staff now re-employed on temporary contracts and at great expense?

Why does the County Council not explain how volunteers can have access to the library computer system when this is known to break the Data Protection Act?

Why are the cuts in Gloucestershire more severe than anywhere else in the country? In Oxfordshire, for example, no libraries are being closed, and opening hours have been

reduced but the buildings have been kept within the statutory service so that future restoration is possible.    John Holland

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