Community library joins list of branches at risk of the axe

0
241
Milford library
Milford library, in Park Road, is run by volunteers

MILFORD library is on the list of at-risk branches after Hampshire County Council unveiled closure proposals to help save £1.76m.

Advertisement

Lyndhurst and Blackfield libraries were named last week among 10 venues most vulnerable to the axe in documents which have gone out for public consultation, as reported in the A&T.

But Milford is also under threat as one of a further four community-run libraries that are facing the loss of HCC support.

It is currently operated on limited hours by volunteers, with running costs paid by local people, aided by HCC providing books, broadband and public computers. Villagers stepped forward in 2014 after HCC ended funding for staff there.

Under the new proposals, however, council assistance would end completely and, if the community decided against moving to a new structure, the library in Park Road would close.

Cllr Sue Whitlock, a member of Milford Parish Council, said: “The parish council would be very sad to see that support removed.

“The volunteers made a superb effort to get the library going as a volunteer-led organisations. It would seem a slap in the face to see the support removed.”

A number of authors with links to Hampshire have added their opposition to the proposed closures by penning an open letter to HCC – including bestselling writer Neil Gaiman, who grew up in the county.

It said: “We are authors who live, work or were brought up in Hampshire. Libraries are where we learned about books, and where we learned to love them – they are where everyone who reads learns to love books.

“An open library is proof that we value community and culture. A closed library is a sign of a society – and a county council – that is turning its back on both. We urge Hampshire County Council to reverse this shameful decision.”

Cllr Hilary Brand, Lyndhurst’s Liberal Democrat district councillor, has launched an online petition against the village library’s closure, which on Tuesday had been signed by more than 120 people.

A final decision on the proposals is expected to be made by HCC in the summer followed by a further consultation on opening hours. Changes would be implemented this autumn.

Cllr Sean Woodward, cabinet member for recreation and heritage at Conservative-run HCC, said the authority was “absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service”.

He added: “No decisions will be made until all the consultation responses have been fully analysed. I would therefore urge everyone who lives, works or studies in Hampshire to come forward and have their say.”

The consultation says all the libraries could be saved but that would mean cutting opening hours by 25%.

There will be a series of public drop-ins with HCC staff on hand to answer questions next month.

They will be held at Hythe library on 3rd February, 2pm-5pm; Blackfield library on 6th February, 2pm-4pm; and Lyndhurst library on 14th February, 2pm-4pm.

The consultation will close on 18th March. To comment online, go to www.hants.gov.uk/library-consultation.

What do you think? Write to the Advertiser and Times via letters@adt.press.

Advertisement