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Kingsclere fears end of Hampshire County Council library support

Library hopes to raise enough funds to become independent

Jonathan Ashby

Jonathan Ashby

jonathan.ashby@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886637

Petition launched to stop library cuts

THE worst fears of Kingsclere Community Library users could be confirmed after it was revealed that the facility is set to lose its support from Hampshire County Council (HCC).

As part of an effort to save the council £1.76m, officers are recommending that the library – one of the council’s four community-run libraries – will no longer form part of its library service.

This will mean losing its supply of books, self-service terminal, public computer, broadband connection and free public wifi, as well as its weekly visit from a member of Hampshire Libraries staff.

If the recommendations are approved, support for the facility will end on April 1, 2021, forcing the library to either become independent – or to close.

A final decision will be made by the council’s executive member for recreation and heritage Sean Woodward next Tuesday.

In order to help with the transition to becoming independent, Kingsclere Community Library will be able to apply for a one-off investment through the recreation and heritage community fund.

These awards will be individually assessed and are expected to be less than £10,000.

The library will also be able to make use of the current group membership offer, enabling it to refresh its physical stock by accessing all items within the Hampshire Library Collection.

Kingsclere library committee member Sarah Davis said she was disappointed by the decision, but “heartened” by how the community had rallied around the library in its time of need.

She said: “I’m sad because we worked very, very hard and we had this amazing petition with 1,800 signatures supporting the library.

“We’re part of a large problem that HCC have got.

“Libraries for them don’t seem to be very important, but for us they are because they’re part of our small community and the young and the old are going to be especially affected if we can’t carry on.

“It’s a huge challenge, but I’m heartened by the 1,800 signatures.

“I know they’re not all local, but they are Hampshire people and people seem to be missing the library and have been asking when we’re reopening.”

Mrs Davis said they would be able to carry on as an independent library if they have enough money to buy into the services the council are offering, and would be considering turning the library into a charity to access funds from Greenham Trust.

She continued: “It might cost us £12,000 a year and that’s a lot of money.

 “We’re not a charitable organisation at the moment, we’re a community organisation.

“If we become a charitable organisation we can attract funds from people like Greenham Trust, so that’s where we’re heading.

“Buying into their group membership offer is essential.

“To make our library attractive we need to keep the same type of offer available to our customers as we’ve got now, including access to the Hampshire library book collection and many thousands of books.”

Elsewhere in the county, eight council-run libraries will close – while the remaining 40, including Tadley, will face a reduction in opening hours by an average of 20 per cent.

The recommendations were made following a six-week public consultation on the future of the council’s library service, which received more than 21,000 responses – the most the council has received for a consultation.

Of those, 70 per cent acknowledged that the service needs to adapt.

While 70 per cent of respondents indicated they would continue to use their local library if it was independent and managed by the local community, many were uncertain whether an independent library model could adequately replace the services currently offered by the libraries.

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