The 12-week consultation on a strategy which focuses limited resources where they can have the greatest impact on residents’ lives was agreed by East Sussex County Council’s cabinet and it launched on Thursday, September 21.
Cllr Bill Bentley, lead member for communities, said: “The strategy represents a pivotal moment for the service, setting out our approach to provide a modern, sustainable library service for the future.
“These proposals represent a change in the way we invest in and deliver the service, focussing more acutely on need than before, but ensuring that the service remains highly accessible across East Sussex.
He added: “It is important to stress that no decisions have been made, and I would encourage as many people as possible – whether they are library members or not – to tell us what they think during the consultation period.
The proposals, which would save the authority £653,000, include closer working with other council departments to provide additional support through outreach work in those areas of the county where there is the greatest need.
A shift towards greater use of the online service and a 40 per cent fall in people using library buildings over the past decade have also prompted plans for greater investment in the county’s eLibrary
To achieve this, the proposals include closing seven of the current 24 library buildings and no longer providing a mobile library service. The libraries that would close under the proposals are Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Ringmer and Willingdon. However, the county council is keen to explore whether there is interest in these libraries staying open if they can be wholly operated or funded by the community.
If approved, the changes would leave 92 per cent of current library members of the current 24 libraries unaffected. 100 per cent of the members of the seven libraries proposed to close live within a 20 minute drive of one of the proposed 17 remaining libraries. More than 96 per cent are within a 30 minute journey on public transport.
As part of the plans, the county council would create a community library card to allow a member of a community to borrow a large number of books which could be made available in venues such as village halls or community centres.
Those unable to travel to a library due to ill-health, disability or because they are a carer would be able to continue to use the Home Library Service, which would be promoted more widely.
Cllr Bentley added: “We want to hear from the public. Closing library buildings is not a decision we would take lightly so we will thoroughly consider any alternative, realistic and cost-effective proposals put forward during the consultation process.
“The proposals have been drawn up following extensive research on how libraries are used and ensure that we can continue to deliver a comprehensive, accessible library service while focusing on areas of higher need.”
The consultation will run until Thursday, December 14, 2017. For more information on the proposals and to comment, visit https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/draft-strategy/