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OTTERY:Library ‘friends’ step up campaign to save service
Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Ottery residents fighting to secure a future for the town’s threatened library service have warned that time is running out, and this week called for the local community to help generate ideas for ways the facility could be maintained in the long term. Devon County Council is proposing to slash library spending by £1.5million across the county, and many of Devon’s smaller libraries – including Colyton and Axminster, as well as Ottery St Mary - are being prepared for significant changes. Concerned residents formed a “Friends of Ottery Library” group following the start of a public consultation on the plans, which is due to end next week. And with time running out, those heading the campaign have called for local service users to come forward with their own suggestions for how the library could be maintained. James Goddard, Chairman of the Friends of Ottery Library group (FOOL), said: “We know that times are hard for many local organisations but we believe that our efficient and valuable library deserves to survive and to continue serving the people of Ottery and district. “Encouraging young people to develop a love of reading and books is something that cannot be costed but it is fundamentally important. “Time is not on our side but we want to hear from local people who have any ideas on how this valuable local resource can be sustained.” The friends argue that the cost of running Ottery’s library is slight compared to others across the county, and despite a lack of investment, has matched larger libraries in terms of book issues. Ottery’s library was among the county’s most cost-effective facilities and was ranked fourth across Devon on costs per head of local population, the group claims. Group spokesman and local author Philip Algar told Pulman’s View that the statistics were clear but that it was time to “face the reality” that cuts will be made. He said: “The figures suggest that Ottery’s library is effective and efficient compared to the others across the county. “But it is clear that it will require a financial earthquake to keep the library open and we now have to look to see how we can raise funds to provide an alternative solution. “Libraries are changing whether we like it or not. If we stick our heads in the sand we will be doomed to fail.” The county council has reported a positive response to the proposals from other parts of Devon, and plans are already being put in place in Colyton for a community-run facility to continue in the future. Similarly, Ottery’s friends group has floated potential solutions to the problem, which could include finding new premises for the facility. The group is adamant that an entirely volunteer led-service would be problematic and has outlined its intention to maintain a professional librarian to manage the facility. Councillor Roger Croad, the county council’s cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said feedback had been positive so far and the council would work with communities to help them secure a future service. He said: “It is not surprising that there is a lot of energy and passion from communities who want to prevent any loss or reduction in their library service. “That goal is shared by the county council and, while we are financially bound by having to make considerable savings to our budget, we will do everything we can with communities to maintain access to their library service.” The Friends of Ottery Library group aims to send a submission to the county council by the end of the consultation period on July 17th. To contact the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/friendsofotterylibrary.
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