Letter to MPC from FoML 28/02/11
Dear Cllr Hurst
Minchinhampton County Library
Thank you for giving the Friends of Minchinhampton Library (FoML) a copy of your letter dated 11/02/11, written on behalf of your parishoners and addressed to Cllr Mark Hawthorne.
We would like to confirm that FoML was formed to share information in the interest of transparency and to give Minchinhampton Library users a voice and reflect their concerns about the GCC proposals to close the library.
We have campaigned with the aim of retaining the library in its present form within the County Library system and for its status to remain as a public library under the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964.
At the Public Meeting on 16th December 2010, the parishoners were told by Cllr Stan Waddington that unless we took up the only option that GCC were offering at that time, which was ‘community-run’ library, we would end up without any library in Minchinhampton and a Steering Group was formed and instructed accordingly.
However, now the Department of Culture, Media & Sports (DCMS) are investigating the library issue and there is a legal challenge to GCC proposals regarding libraries which will be heard in the High Court on 7th March 2011, we urge you not to enter into any agreements with GCC at this stage, and to postpone any decision regarding the future of Minchinhampton Library until the matter has been resolved legally.
Elaine Heller, Coordinator of FoML
Letter to Nick Hurst from FoML 28/02/11
Dear Cllr Hurst
The continuity of the county library service in Minchinhampton
In MPC’s negotiations with GCC, we would like you to emphasise that endeavouring to keep county library services alive in Minchinhampton is about real people and their needs, as a total withdrawal of county library services from Minchinhampton would have a negative impact upon the social and economic life of our community.
It is essential, particularly for the vulnerable elderly and the young, that we keep a viable county library service in Minchinhampton.
We have one of the largest primary schools in the county, currently sited next door to the library and the Head Teacher Mr N Moss has stated that up to 85% of his pupils use the Minchinhampton county library services and he feels this is crucial to their learning.
We have a higher than average elderly population and many of our older residents have told us that having the county library service in Minchinhampton is a vital ‘life-line’.
We are all relying upon our Parish Council to represent to GCC, as strongly as possible, the case of keeping county library services available in Minchinhampton.
In the context of FoML’s petition with over 2000 signatures to date, ‘objecting to the proposed closure of Minchinhampton library which provides our community with an outstanding service’, we hope that you will consider involving library users in deciding on the options and in making decisions on a sustainable future for the library service in our town.
E A Heller, Co-ordinator of FoML
Attachments: Letter from N Moss, Head Teacher, Minchinhampton Primary School
Letter from Nick Hurst to Mark Hawthorne 11/02/11
11th. Feb 2011
Library and Youth Club Services in Minchinhampton
I am writing as current chairman of Minchinhampton Parish Council, and on behalf of my parishoners, both of voting age and younger.
I am not preaching, but neither you nor I joined public life to reduce services casually, or to diminish the quality of life that those services essentially provide to our populations.
Minchinhampton is faced with County cuts, which will inflict significant damage upon
both the Town, and because of geographic and transport networks, a much wider area. Minchinhampton itself has an ageing population, with above national levels of retired citizens. But it also has several excellent schools, and both of these groups rely heavily on the availability of the library. A lack of facility elsewhere highlights the need to maintain services in this location. Neither Nailsworth, nor Stroud, is a sensible practical alternative.
Minchinhampton has a reputation for quality of life, and I have a duty to see it is not diluted indiscriminately.
Lesser facilities elsewhere are being offered lifelines and we would appreciate that Minchinhampton should be given similar consideration. The closure of our facilities appears to be an arbitrary decision with no consideration of their use or need. Please explain the logic of your decision, because from here it looks bizarre and arbitrary.
As a reaction to your announcements we wrote to you with our mission statement for community services in January as requested and are still awaiting acknowledgement from yourselves. As stated within the mission statement we are prepared to work WITH the County to redesign the services under threat, to make them more financially efficient, but we cannot do this adequately within the timescale you have set. We ask for additional time in order that we can prepare a sensible thorough response to the cuts.
If this process is to be done properly and “The BIg Community Offer” is to be successful, then you have to let us have the time to deliver a solution which:
- Satisfies the GCCs desire to cut overheads, and
- Builds on what you have already created over generations, with the expenditure of significant public funds, provided by your ratepayers (i.e. OUR money), to continue to offer viable information and library, and youth services.
In other words cut overheads not services, and recognise the inheritance from previous investment.
We have established steering groups to look at the problems that will ensue. The steering groups have raised several questions, which are attached herewith, and require urgent answers. In order that we are to meet your timescales we would appreciate your support in answering these queries as a matter of urgency, by separate copy of this letter to Sue Lawrence and Mark Parker.
Our next meeting to discuss impact is 17th February and a response before that date seems a reasonable request, given the timescales have been established by yourselves.
Nick Hurst (on behalf of Minchinhampton)
Questions to follow soon ……….
Email to FoML from Nick Moss, Head Teacher at Minchinhampton Primary School 10/02/11
We have spoken to the pupils at school and surveyed how many use the library.
In the younger classes (Reception up to Year 2) – 85% of pupils said they went to the library with their family.
In the older classes (Yr 3 up to Yr 6) between 40% and 75% of pupils said they used the library at different times through the year. Pupils in these years are expected to carry out topic work in their own time and many said they find the library very useful at these times.
As the head teacher, I believe the library’s importance to the community and in particular to our children has been underestimated. Encouraging children to become enthusiastic and experienced readers is critical if they are to become indpendent learners and get the most out of their education. There is, in my view, nothing more important than this. It is not just an educational imperative but also a moral one that they leave school proficient in their reading.
In my experience a local library plays a crucial role in developing a child’s love of books and their reading habits. By their own account, our younger pupils frequently visit the library to look at, read and borrow books. Some year groups even visit the library as classes and borrow books during school time. During Book Weeks at school, the librarians will often work with us to promote reading. A good number of our children take part in the summer read challenges set by the library.
I feel strongly about the importance of reading and books in children’s lives and in turn am convinced of the role our library has to play in the lives of the children in Minchinhampton.
N Moss, Head teacher
Letter presented to Minchinhampton Parish Council (MPC) on 31/01/11
The acting chairman, Cllr Roy Nicholas, accepted the letter on behalf of Mr Hurst and said that they could not tell us when they will reply but the MPC had set up a Steering Group and they will inform the GCC of their findings on 17/02/11. It was pointed out at the meeting that the GCC was actually making their final decision on 16/02/11!
Dear Mr Hurst
Closure of Minchinhampton Library
In the light of the news today that Cinderford Library has been reprieved and is going to continue to be funded by GCC, with reasons given very similar to those expressed by the residents of Minchinhampton, we are writing in the hope that the Parish Council will now persuade GCC to reconsider the future of Minchinhampton Library.
We would like to ask you to reply urgently to the following questions so we can inform our members:
- Is MPC challenging the GCCs proposal to either close our library or offer us the ‘community-run’ option only?
- What is MPC actually doing to try to keep Minchinhampton as a public council-run library?
- Is MPC aware that library users feel it is vital to stay within the public system and have professional staff and full access to the county’s facilities and book stocks?
The last question is supported by the petition signed by the children and parents of Minchinhampton School and handed to the MPC on 16/12/10. A further petition is now in train and being signed by the residents of Minchinhampton. In addition, having spoken to the warden of Cecily Court, we understand that the library in its present location is extensively used for both books and computers by the residents.
We wonder too if you have seen the statements from the Buckinghamshire Community run Library Group* that is quoted so freely by GCC as a good example. However, they do not wish to be held up as a model as they are not convinced that ‘community-run’ is sustainable as it is still in the experimental stage. It is also stated that it takes some sixty volunteers and continued high funding.
Additionally, members of our community who have professional experience in the field say that the GCC plans for ‘community libraries’ are flawed and unworkable.
The consensus of opinion is that while we accept the need for ‘cut backs’ we do not wish to be ‘cut out’ entirely. For example, if the general cut back is 43%, we would prefer our library to remain in the general system, albeit with reduced hours, say from 26 hours to 15 hours per week.
We feel that the GCC should spread the cuts fairly across all the libraries in the county and not increase hours in some and close others.
Can you represent us in this and reflect the wishes of Minchinhampton residents?
We look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.
Signed by Ms E A Heller on behalf of the Friends of Minchinhampton Library
*This is a comment that was not part of the original letter but an important one to mention. One of the Minchinhampton Parish Councillors has commented that there was recently a BBC interview with Buckinghamshire Community Library representatives and they were very positive about their experience of it being community run.
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