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Communities respond positively to library consultation
2:00pm Monday 30th June 2014 in News
COMMUNITIES say they are keen to work with Devon County Council to ensure their library service continues.
Towns and villages including Dartmouth and Colyton - both of which had feared a potential loss of their library services due to budget cuts - are saying that alternative solutions are achievable if people put their minds to it.
So far, more than two out of every three of the 2,500 people (67.7 per cent) responding to the Council's consultation agree with the proposals for their local library.
More than eight out of every ten respondees agree that sharing library space with multiple services - the Council's 'Devon Centre' model - is the best way to reduce costs.
But with just three weeks left before the Council's consultation period ends (on the 17 July), the Council is keen for more communities to engage, with ideas for how their local library could be sustained.
David Chapman, Chair of the Flavel Trust in Dartmouth, says: "Dartmouth has no intention of losing its library service.
"The library has been at the heart of the Flavel Centre for 10 years and is absolutely complementary to the centre's other cultural and artistic offerings.
"It's a very busy library, and its footfall is really important to the rest of the centre.
"We're talking to the County Council about how we might work in a more integrated way and share space with some aspects of the library service, which would be more cost effective for all of us."
In many ways the Flavel Centre already embodies many of the characteristics of a 'Devon Centre', with a library run alongside other activities.
Many organisations in the town, and the Flavel Centre in particular, have strong volunteer support demonstrating their importance within the community.
Councillor Jonathan Hawkins, Devon County Councillor for Dartmouth and Kingswear, said: "Our Library is very important to our community and neighbouring Parishes. It is a well used facility and I am positive that negotiations we are holding with the Flavel and Devon County will see a positive future. I believe we have made a good and strong case to retain paid staff in Dartmouth to continue the good work that has been made over the past 10 years.
"Our Community values the library service which is evident in its popularity, particularly amongst young people."
But possible solutions are different for every community because every community is different, says the Council.
In Colyton, local volunteers work in partnership with the librarian through their very active Friends group. Chairman, Jane Dauncey explains: "We've got a lot of ideas that we're talking to the County Council about.
"Some of them are about how we could cut costs immediately by taking ownership of the building as a charitable trust, becoming responsible for the building's maintenance, and reducing other overhead costs.
"Other ideas are about how we could open the building up for other community purposes and possibly generating income.
"Where there is a will, there's a way, and the one thing that is for certain is that is that Colyton will keep its library."
Councillor Roger Croad, the County Council's Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service said: "We've had a lot of really useful and constructive conversations in communities across the county and while the feedback so far has been largely positive, we are not pre-empting the consultation which has a few weeks yet to run.
"It's 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.
"Many communities so far are channelling their energy to come up with really useful ideas. Some are talking about sharing buildings to reduce costs, while other ideas include bringing in other local community services alongside the library, and about the role that willing volunteers might play.
"With just three weeks left for the consultation, we'd like communities from which we've not yet had engagement, to get in touch."