Worcestershire County Council are remodelling library services and Warndon is one that has been highlighted as having ‘low aggregate need’.
At the consultation yesterday, residents voiced their concerns about the potential replacement of paid staff with volunteers, the reduction of services and the loss of their library’s role as a community hub.
Some older residents pointed out the importance of having someone to talk to in order to avoid loneliness.
Labour Cllrs Jo Hodges, Ceri Stalker and Roger Berry all made important contributions.
Cllr Lucy Hodgson – Conservative County Council Cabinet Member responsible for Libraries and City Councillor for Warndon Parish South, refused to rule out closure and claimed to have an ‘open mind’ on the future of the library.
Jo Hodges, Labour City Councillor for Warndon, said: “the possibility of a reduction in this service or even closure breaks my heart.
“The residents have today voiced their concerns and very eloquently and powerfully so. They categorically don’t want their services taken away.
“We’re already co-located here in Warndon Library. We can make no savings here so we’re dependent on others making savings. That pits our library against others; it’s wrong.”
Ceri Stalker, Labour City Councillor for Warndon and also County Councillor for Gorse Hill and Warndon:
“Today we’ve heard from residents their serious and legitimate concerns about recruitment of volunteers.
“I also have concerns about keeping hold of them if we do manage to recruit a suitable amount.
“On the plus side, working with the children of the Hollymount and Carnforth Schools was an excellent experience. They put in posters that myself and Cllr Hodges judged and then presented to Cllr Hodgson. We both thank the kids for their art – it was all fantastic!”
Roger Berry, Labour City Councillor for Gorse Hill, said:
“It’s important we remember that this library is not used just by people who live in Warndon but plenty of other places nearby such as my ward in Gorse Hill, as well as Rainbow Hill and the Warndon Villages.
“We’ve seen a very impressive turnout from residents here today, and our colleagues in St. John’s also had a similar experience at their consultation recently.
“I hope the residents’ concerns are viewed as paramount as we’ve been assured today.”
Worcestershire County Council are under legal duty to provide a library service but what it actually looks like is not fixed. This means that an on-line catalogue and reservations and e-books can replace the warmth, human contact and community that a library provides – not to mention the fact that many older people rely on library computers to access email and services that are, increasingly, only available on-line.
What does replacing paid staff with volunteers that say about society when a vital, and legally necessary service, pays its workers nothing while people that don’t need to work “earn” upwards of £10,000 a day?