Last week children in the north Cotswold village of Blockley staged a protest against GCC’s closure of the mobile library service, which will visit the area for the last time on July 14th. Under its plans to cut the library budget by over a third, GCC will withdraw all mobile library services from our largely rural county.
Three of the children who attended the protest have written letters to the Council explaining why they protested, and what the mobile library means to them. You can read their letters by clicking on their names: Francesca (aged 9), Ruby (aged 7), Alfie (aged 7).
The children’s protest was reported in The Cotswold Journal, and GCC Libraries portfolio holder Councillor Antonia Noble is quoted as saying;
“Before any mobile library services are withdrawn, we will be talking to ensure we assess the needs of those affected.”
But the decision has already been taken to withdraw the mobile service, and indeed, a date has been set (14th July in Blockley’s case). Why are mobile library users only being ‘consulted’ now, after a decision has been made? As detailed elsewhere on this site, no mention was made of the loss of the mobile libraries in GCC’s original consultation documents, and it was only following outcry from library users that this was rectified (2 months into a 3 month consultation process). Mobile library users have been forgotten and ignored – the Cabinet member and Council Leader do not even think that mobile libraries are libraries at all!
Meanwhile, questions continue to be raised over GCC’s proposed ‘replacement’ for the mobile service, a postal scheme where books are ordered online or over the phone from a catalogue and sent out to library users, not least as many elderly library users (many of whom use the mobile service) prefer to borrow hard back or large print books, and under GCC’s scheme the cost of postage would lie with the borrower. FoGL campaigner Alice Ross has done some research on this:
In a spirit of enquiry I borrowed a large print book and took it to the post office to find out how much it would cost to post if someone ordered it through their GCC catalogue as GCC has suggested (cost of producing the catalogue not made public). The volume I chose, ‘Alec Guinness the unknown’ (chosen to represent a typically-sized large print book), would have cost £4.41 to post AND the same presumably for the poor borrower to post back – if he/she could reach/find a post office before the return date. It would take 3-5 working days to arrive and, if not ordered online, would presumably incur the £1 charge for ordering.
As well as these practical issues, GCC’s ‘replacement’ does nothing to ‘replace’ the sense of companionship, choice and independence that more vulnerable users get from a visit to the mobile library. No doubt these issues will be raised in GCC’s coming ‘consultation’ with mobile library users, but it’s difficult to see what value can come of a consultation taking place AFTER a decision to close the service has been made.