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Philip Evans


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OTTERY: Changes proposed at library as county council plans cuts

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ottery St Mary Library could be forced to rely on community-run services in the future, after Devon County Council announced plans to cut budgets by half.
Under the proposals, 22 of the county’s larger libraries, including Sidmouth and Honiton, would become multi-purpose “community hubs” or “Devon Centres”, offering a range of services.
But volunteers would be encouraged to play a bigger role in the running of the remaining 28 smaller libraries, such as Ottery St Mary, with limited support from the county council.
The council is looking to save another £1.5 million from its library service by 2017 and a public consultation on the proposed changes will be held in May, during which communities will be urged to come forward with ideas on how the service could be sustained in the future.
As a result, different services could be provided at each of the 28 libraries and the council has no single model in mind.
Mayor of Ottery St Mary Councillor Glyn Dobson said the library is used by people from across the community and any reduction in the service would be a “great loss” to the town.
He said: “Ottery’s library is well-used by people of all ages and it has been in the town for as long as I can remember.
“It would be a lot more difficult for volunteers to take over the running of the library - the way it is run at the moment is the right way forward.
“I do appreciate the county council has to make cuts but there are certain things they should not be cutting – one of those is the youth service and the other is libraries.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service, said driving down costs was not the only reason for making the changes.
He said: “Changes in the way people use libraries, and in what they expect of the service, is also driving this consideration of what a future library service might look like.
“We know that, at their best, libraries have tremendous potential to support people of all ages to develop their skills and knowledge.
“We think these proposals represent the best opportunity to maximise the potential of libraries to support local communities in the future.
“Of course, we are continuing to reduce costs in other ways, in our management and support of the service.
“And over the coming months we will be going out to communities to engage them in thinking about how they can maintain a local service, with as much support from the council as we can give.”
The council’s consultation document says traditional book-lending is in decline as a result of the popularity of online and e-reader technologies and a broader range of services should be offered to communities instead.
The council is also proposing to look at ways of maximising the use of technology to widen access, reduce the cost of the current mobile library service, as well as finding more cost-effective ways to deliver services to residential homes.
Councillor Croad added: “I would encourage local residents, groups and organisations to give us their views and to put forward any other ideas or suggestions they have on how we can continue to offer this very important service whilst also reducing costs.
“We are happy to hear from organisations across the county who have innovative ideas on how this could be done.”


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