Sun, 08 Mar 2020
“THEY think about the money when they should be thinking about the people.”
Those are the words of 101-year-old Maisie Phenix, the oldest user of the Kingsclere Community Library – one of those in Hampshire at risk of closure.
Mrs Phenix has been using a library in Kingsclere since she moved to the village in 1945.
First this was at a small library in the local Women’s Institute, before the Kingsclere and Whitchurch Parish Council – as it was then known – opened the current library on George Street.
This could be set to change, however, as Hampshire County Council is proposing to cut its support of the volunteer-run facility as part of its wider plan to save money.
This would mean the library would lose its self-service terminal, computer, free public WiFi and, perhaps most importantly, it’s frequent restocking of new books.
The venue would either have to become independent and self-sufficient – or close.
For Mrs Phenix – who lives just two doors down from the library – the venue has become a lifeline, keeping not just her mind active through reading, but also helping her maintain her social life.
She said: “Living to this age you outlive your old friends, so that’s why this library is a blessing to me because I’ve made such a lot of new friends.
“If they’re serving the people of Kingsclere particularly, they should think about what we need.
“It would be a big loss to all of us.
“I might be the oldest now but there are people coming up fast behind me.
“I don’t want publicity for myself, but if my little tale is told properly then perhaps it would be useful.”
The venue is one of four ‘tier four’ libraries which could suffer the fate – saving £49,000 from the council’s budget.
If it does close, Kingsclere residents will have to travel to either Tadley or Basingstoke to access a library.
For people like Mrs Phenix, this simply isn’t an option.
She said: “There’s a bus stop across the road, and even if I could get there and get on the bus, I couldn’t walk from the bus stop in Basingstoke or Tadley to the library.”
Asked what she would say if she could speak to the councillor in charge of the libraries, Sean Woodward, Mrs Phenix said: “Please can we keep our library?
“It’s a good library with nice people and doesn’t have as many good books as we should have.
“We just need a library here that we can get to.”
Mrs Phenix’s daughter Josephine, who now lives in Canada, insisted that the library was a valuable resource for people like her mother.
She said: “You can see how she’s dependent on the library and dependent on the friends she’s made through the library who now come and supply her with books when she can’t get there herself.
“Without the library, there’s no possibility that anyone could do that.
“Mum has lived here since 1945 and has been involved in so many activities in the village, from the old-time dancing club to the Red Cross.
“She’s done so much for this village over the past 75 years, it’s time the village did something for her.”
A consultation is currently open on the future of all libraries across Hampshire.
Ten of the 48 libraries across the county are threatened with closure, while the remaining 38 could have their opening hours reduced by 15 per cent, including Tadley Library.
The consultation will close on March 18, with the council stressing that no decision will be made until all consultation responses have been fully analysed.
A final decision on the proposals is expected to be made in summer 2020, followed by a further consultation on opening hours.
If approved, changes would be implemented in autumn 2020.
To view the information pack on the proposed plans and details of the consultation, visit https://documents. hants.gov.uk/ consultation/libraries-info-booklet.pdf