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Philip Evans


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OTTERY: Fight is on to save town’s threatened library service

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Ottery residents have vowed to fight plans to close the town’s library and agreed this week to set up a group to protect the service. Around 80 people attended a public meeting at the library to express their outrage at county council proposals to cut back library services across Devon. If the plans are approved, 22 “Devon Centres” will be established in the county’s larger towns, with smaller communities – including Ottery St Mary – asked to find alternative means for funding the service. Following the meeting, held on Tuesday (June 3rd), residents banded together in a “Friends of Ottery Library” group to fight the changes. Lorrie Quale, an Ottery resident who helped to organise the meeting, said: “I arrived in the town four years ago and one of the first things I did was sign up at the local library. “The current facility is not perfect where it is but the staff provide a very good service – the more I have seen of this library and the people it operates for, the more valuable it has become in my eyes. “The county council says it has not made any decisions and they have started this consultation with local people – but I think they have specified what they want to do.” The council is looking to save a further £1.5 million from its library service by 2017 and has suggested reducing the number of library buildings as a potential cost-cutting measure. Its 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. But Mr Quale said it was critical that a fully-staffed facility was retained in the future. He added: “These are very important facilities for communities and the staff at Ottery are so keen and enthusiastic – we do not want to lose them. “I was delighted with the turnout for the meeting, which shows the strength of public feeling on this issue. And we have set up this group to try to act as the conduit for everyone’s views. “People want their library to survive – Ottery is a growing town and should have this facility.” A number of possible solutions were tabled at the meeting, including initial proposals to acquire existing buildings in the town that could be converted into ‘Devon Centres’.” Buildings must meet certain requirements to qualify for “Devon Centre” status and Ottery’s current library is regarded as unsuitable. The new facilities, planned for 28 towns across Devon, including Honiton and Sidmouth, would offer multiple advisory and support services from one central hub. Town councillor Elli Pang suggested acquiring the social services building - which is now up for sale - for conversion into a “Devon Centre”. She said: “The marketing of the building has been delayed to give the town council a chance to purchase it. “Ottery’s library is not listed as one of the ‘Devon Centres’ because the building is not suitable, so we need to acquire another building to get one established. “The social services building would enable us to provide a much more comprehensive service alongside the adjacent Station Youth Centre.” A working group is due to meet next week on behalf of the “Friends of Ottery Library” to discuss the next steps.


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