My question to Essex County Council Extraordinary meeting on the closure or downgrading of 74 libraries

Good Morning

Please do not close or downgrade the Essex libraries

My question is in regard to the sections of the population most disadvantaged by the planned closure of the libraries. In your own document you show that children and people over 65 are the ones who will be disproportionately affected by the closures and you offer no mitigation of the impact on those groups. In fact you offer no explanation of what the impact will be on those two groups, beyond the fact that they make up the largest proportion of library users.
43% of library users in Colchester are 19 and under. 23% are over 65 and the number of people over 65 years old in Essex will increase by 61% by 2039 while the population will grow by at least 20%. The damage caused by this attack on our youngest and oldest will further increase.

My question is personal, on behalf of all the people of Essex, especially Wivenhoe and Shrub End. I have not heard anyone say they want libraries to close. I am speaking in the many capacities in which I have an interest in the libraries staying open at the level of service currently offered and staffed by professional librarians.

As a woman resident, I am concerned as to how you can ignore the inequality of impact on women compared to men? Women make up the majority of users (by at least 2:1) of Tier 4 libraries such as Prettygate, Tier 3 libraries such as Wivenhoe, and of Tier 2 libraries across Essex. Men are the majority users only in Tier 1 hub libraries, which are not to be downgraded.

As a mother, teacher and grandmother, I am concerned at the fact that children will be deprived of books. It is well researched and documented that learning and the love of reading and studying will be impacted by loss of access to the library spaces, books, librarians and online services.

As a local politician I am concerned that community cohesion, public and social services are to be eroded by the loss of safe library spaces, staffed professionally.

As a volunteer running a social club for older people I am horrified by the loss of access to books, advice, online services and the consequent likely increase in social isolation and loneliness among the elderly. Volunteers will not be able to replace the current opening hours, there is only so much we can do – though we want to add value to the current offer.

So my question is, how will you repair and compensate for the admitted impact and disadvantage caused by library closures on this massive scale, at what cost – direct and indirect – social and educational – for children, women, and older people?

Thank you