Parish Council pass several motions expressing concern at the library services provided by East Sussex Libraries, and in particular the planned closure of the Mobile Library that visits Hurst Green.
East Sussex County Council have announced that (subject to consultation) from April 2018 they will close the mobile library service (which serves Hurst Green) and instead expect to rely on the Parish Council to provide a library, complemented by the library service's online e-library and volunteer-run home library service for those with ill-health, a disability or caring responsibilities.
The key changes that East Sussex Libraries are proposing to implement are:
- That they will provide an enhanced online 'eLibrary';
- To provide a greater focus on outreach provision by working more closely with other County Council services and partners;
- To close 7 libraries, reducing the number from 24 to 17;
- To stop the Mobile Library Service;
- To no longer supply books to the Northiam Village Library;
- To provide recognised members of the community, such as members of a Parish Council, with a community library card that would allow them to borrow a large number of items from the library to make available in a community setting for a prolonged period of time.
The cornerstone of the Libraries consultation is that East Sussex County Council believe that the remaining 17 library buildings and an enhanced 'eLibrary' will provide 'a high level of accessibility to library services for rural communities' as a more efficient way to meet needs for library services in these areas.
Councillor Brown visited the mobile library service in October 2017 during its 45 minute visit to Hurst Green. Far from being found empty, he reported a continual stream of mostly older and some elderly, residents using the service. Adult residents were observed returning books, taking new ones out on loan, picking up leaflets, and also engaging with each other and the librarian. Aside from the physical presence of the library vehicle during its short visit, it was surprising that there was no permanent visible marker, advertisement or notice for the service nearby.
Speaking after the meeting Councillor Brown said "Residents are probably unaware of the mobile library service, and even if they are, the current service is simply inaccessible. Providing a service for just 45 minutes every three weeks on Thursday in the middle of the day means the current service heavily favours residents who are either retired, or parents that stay at home. This is reinforced by the statistics, just some 14% of residents of the Parish are registered to use Library services, some two thirds less than could perhaps be reasonably expected based on statistics for the rest of East Sussex "
Following Councillor Brown's report the following motions were passed by the Parish Council:
Motion: "That Hurst Green Parish Council is concerned at the accessibility and awareness of all current library services provided by East Sussex Libraries to residents of this Parish, and the subsequent low levels of engagement. This Council calls upon East Sussex Libraries to fulfill its statutory duty to encourage all adults and children, regardless of place of residence, to make full use of the library service, including its physical and digital offerings, by undertaking measures to significantly raise awareness of its services to residents of this Parish."
Motion: "That Hurst Green Parish Council believes that the mobile library service provided by East Sussex County Council provides an essential service to residents of the Parish, which aids community cohesion by providing an interaction point with the County Council, as well as an accessible source of information, and that this must be maintained until such time that there is clear evidence that all residents are both able to, and would rather use an alternative service."
Motion: "That Hurst Green Parish Council will respond to the East Sussex Libraries Consultation in accordance with the related resolved motion(s) and that once the outcome of the East Sussex Libraries Consultation is known, that Hurst Green Parish Council will, if required setup a working party to best manage the resource for local needs."
Councillor's Brown's paper to Council can be read in full here: 5.3 - ESCC Libraries Consultation: supporting paper and motions