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Libraries will be protected until 2025 but some may move, says council

todayFebruary 25, 2022

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All libraries in Nottinghamshire will be protected from closure “through until 2025”, a leading councillor has confirmed.

However, he says some sites may move to new locations or ‘co-locate’ as the authority looks to cut costs on some expensive, old buildings.

Council figures show visitor numbers for the county’s 60 static libraries hit 112,087 for the period of April 1 to June 30, 2021. This figure is 19.49 per cent of the target set by the council.

It led to concerns some of the county’s libraries could be due for closure amid cost-saving exercises and less demand due to both the pandemic and more services moving online.

But now a leading council chairman has given residents the assurance they will still have access to a library within their “locality” by the time the next elections arrive in May 2025.

However, he says his assurances do not mean some libraries will remain within the same physical building.

Speaking during the budget meeting on Thursday (February 24), Councillor John Cottee, the authority’s communities chairman, said: “I’m happy to … confirm this administration will maintain Nottinghamshire’s network of 60 libraries and its mobile provision through to 2025.

“The only qualification to that statement is to emphasise I’m talking about libraries rather than buildings.

“That’s because opportunities may – and have – arisen to relocate services to different buildings in the same locality that offer better value for taxpayers’ money.

“It may also be that opportunities arise to co-locate libraries with other services to provide a one-stop-shop for our communities.

“The bottom line, however, is that nobody who has access to a library within a reasonable difference to where they live now will cease to have that access now or in the next three years, nor beyond if we continue in office.”

He added there will be no changes to library charges and, as concerns ease over Covid and all restrictions ease, “footfall will improve and income will recover”.

His comments came, he said, due to concerns over Nottingham City Council’s plans to close three libraries and after calls were made at County Hall to protect Nottinghamshire’s 60 sites.

Cllr Daniel Williamson (Ash Ind), of the Independent Alliance, had tabled a motion at last month’s full council meeting calling for libraries to be protected.

The motion, which did not get debated due to time, called on libraries to be protected until 2025 and said: “This council believes our library buildings are a valuable tool in terms of education and community cohesion.

“Nottinghamshire County Council therefore commits to keep open all 60 library buildings in their current location until at least 2025.”

Cllr Cottee said his speech during the budget was his way of addressing Cllr Williamson’s concerns, but he did not confirm which sites may move or co-locate with other services.

Similar concerns have previously been raised in the chamber about the prospect of library closures.

Speaking in the communities committee on November 3, Cllr Elizabeth Williamson (Ind), who represents Greasley and Brinsley, said: “I have worries that our library estate may not be fit for purpose as more and more residents go online.

“Will this council do a future report into increasing footfall in our libraries and look at bringing more services into our libraries and events?”

Responding, Derek Higton, service director for place and communities, said: “We are seeing a significant reduction in physical visits to libraries.

“Our assessment is that it is in part due to the fact that we’re still in the act of reopening all of our 58 libraries across the county.

“In Nottinghamshire, our visitor numbers have been largely stable.

“There is concern among a number of library users, despite our libraries being covid safe, about visiting those kind of facilities.

“In Nottinghamshire, our return to normal operating is notably quicker than in many other parts of the country.”

Cllr Glynn Gilfoyle (Lab) said he hoped Mr Higton would fight for libraries to remain open.

Mr Higton responded: “I suspect I am not breaking any confidence to say that the current administration is absolutely committed to retaining the current network of physical libraries.”

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Written by: thehitnetwork

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