We recently raised concerns regarding Gloucestershire County Council’s mobile library service cuts and the shambolic way in which it was being handled.
It was bought to FoGLs attention that the residents of at least three villages in the North Cotswolds had received no contact at all from Gloucestershire County Council about the changes to the service and how it would affect them. GCC withdrew the former service in October 2012 without providing any information regarding the specifics of the new service to library users. The only information provided was a small paper sign on the mobile library, during the last trip out, informing people just that the library service was being stopped. Those who had not visited the mobile library on its last trip out received no information at all. Indeed, we heard of four children who waited for half an hour in the rain for the mobile library to arrive and it never did. The new service was not implemented until over a month later in December 2012. This left people with library books issued to them but with no idea as to whether or not the library bus would ever return. Gloucestershire County Council are adamant that they contacted and consulted everyone but we know for a fact this is not true.
GCCs new mobile library strategy sends the mobile library bus to a few of the larger towns and villages in Gloucestershire. where it will sit for 2 hours at each stop, and will miss out the smaller, more isolated communities. Having lived in rural Gloucestershire for many years, to me this makes little sense. The strategy almost turns the mobile library into a static one, forcing rurally isolated people to go to it, rather than it go to them. This rather seems to defeat the point. In isolated areas, with very limited public transport, getting to a mobile library is going to be as difficult for many as getting to an existing static library is. The people in the few bigger towns and villages it will be visiting will have two hours of the library whilst others will have none as they can’t get to it. This could result in just a handful of people visiting the mobile library in a two hour slot with the bus just sitting there when it could be serving many towns, villages and hamlets.
We were contacted by one mobile library user who is unable to use a static library and has had her mobile library access stopped by GCC to tell us that, although the mobile library is driving past her village, GCC will not allow it to stop there and advised her to go on a 40 mile round trip to a static library that is open on a Sunday (the only day she can access transport) instead. This is not only nonsensical and bad for the environment but is cruel. What is even worse is that we also heard today that GCC are now refusing to communicate with her further on the matter. A rurally isolated avid reader has been cut off.
FoGL have been trying to establish exactly how people have been consulted and informed about the cuts because what GCC says happened and what we are hearing on the ground are two different things. Sadly, GCC sent us an email today saying
we will no longer reply to further enquiries on this subject
We will persist in our efforts to get the information we require via FOI and will be involving the Information Commissioner where necessary.
GCC have cut this important lifeline down to a skeleton service that is not fit for purpose. we are worried that this will result in a drop in usage figures which will then provide GCC with justification to make further cuts.