Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Keith Mitchell's latest Library Missive

Released today to county councillors

Personal Statement from Cllr Keith Mitchell CBE, Leader of the County Council
I have personally received a wealth of letters and e-mails about libraries. I recognise that people feel very strongly about this issue.
I want to reassure people that the County Council is looking at all options and has an open mind about the outcome of the consultation
I want the Council to work hand-in-hand with local communities to find a way to keep libraries open in Oxfordshire and to forge ahead with creating a modern library service that is comprehensive and efficient.
I want to see libraries remain open but this can only happen if, in some places, volunteers step forward to help to run them. We have seen how effective a Friends Group can be and believe they should form an essential component of every library service provided by the Council. In the coming year I want to work with every community that does not yet have one to establish a Library Friends Group to work with our staff to agree the best way forward for that library.
In places where the Council provides a full library service I hope that costs can be kept down by encouraging volunteers to supplement Council staff and by increasing the use of self service.
In some places there are lots of community buildings and I want the Council to work with local people to see if we can make better use of these facilities, particularly where the current library building is not very suitable.
In those places where the Council cannot afford to provide a full library service, I want the Council to give ongoing access to important local library facilities. More specifically, I believe we should continue to provide free access to a suitable library building, to our book stock; to the library stock management system and the expertise of qualified librarians. 
I have already announced that an additional late government grant has enabled us to put a little more money back into the service, giving the opportunity to rethink our strategy and to take longer over consultation.  As part of the consultation, I want the County Council to have a dialogue with local people library-by-library.  The consultation into the future of the library service will begin in mid-May. The consultation will run until the end of September to give plenty of time to hear people’s views and to consider options.  However, we still need to make some savings.
No decisions have been taken. Officers are working hard to rethink the process, complete the needs assessment and put together a consultation document. 
It is not appropriate to say any more at this time. Further information will be available in the consultation document. 
Keith R Mitchell
Cllr Keith R Mitchell
Leader of the Council

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