Stonesfield to demonstrate support for the village library this Saturday morning
03/02/11 23:24 Filed in: Stonesfield Library
There was passion in the air in Stonesfield Village Hall tonight, brought about by the proposed closure of the village library.
The meeting, organised Sarah Drew to begin a local response to the proposal from the County Council, attracted 21 concerned locals plus County Councilor Neil Owen - who seemed somewhat surprised by some the vehemence of opinion - against what was seen as political and cultural more than a financial decision.
Parish Council chair John Simpson, however, was clear that the way to fight the closure was on arguments of finance.
"I have good reason to believe the council should keep the Stonesfield Library Open", he said, emphasising he spoke as a villager rather than from his role on the village council.
"The cost savings would be minimal. I estimated that the County only spends about £10,000 per annum to keep the library open at the current 11 hours a week, and it's not even the case that funds could be raised from selling the building."
The Parish Council meeting next Thursday will be attended by Mr John Jackson, Head of Library Services, and John Simpson plans to concentrate his questioning at an accountancy angle, but wanted to gather more questions from the meeting tonight and letters he requested in the Slate and other canvassing.
Thursday's discussions, at the start of the Parish council meeting, will be from 7:30 to 8:45pm, possibly in the main village hall.
The feeling from tonight’s meeting, from my perspective, was there was more to this than just a matter of cost savings - more of a cultural vandalism.
One view positioned the issue more broadly. "I've been thinking about this and we've talked about older people, and unemployed people not having access to services but my concern is for the young people and future generations. Libraries are very important for children and people won't be able and to go to Woodstock instead. Of even more significance is cultural - a library makes a real difference in the life of a village. It gives a sense of culture and adds to the atmosphere. What's more it will have effect on education and a detrimental effect on how young people grow up if it is closed."
A figure of £200,000 was quoted as on offer to cover the possible 20 library closures for a one off primer for voluntary groups - many considered this a non-starter bearing in mind the complexities of the job, and the piecemeal approach of competing voluntary groups.
Figures quoted from a letter from the council for the 2009/2010 financial year showed, even for just 11 open hours a week there were 4,550 visits to Stonesfield Library in the year, and 14,577 issues. John Simpson asked Neil Owen to request figures for the current number of library ticket holders locally (which could be bolstered on Saturday).
The planned timetable of the consultation is that a County Council analysis will happen in June and July, followed by an impact assessment and then in September a report to cabinet. On 31 December affected staff will receive three months notice and posts will be deleted from June 2012.
Ahead of the Parish Council meeting a demonstration of village feeling is planned for 10:30am on Saturday 5 February, which is hoped will generate publicity for the feelings of Stonesfield.