Plans for literacy corner at every Essex library by end of June

Streetview of Thaxted Library, Essex dated May 2021

Thaxted Library - Credit: Google Maps

Every library in Essex will have a designated space to help literacy levels by the end of June, as part of its new plan to reshape the service in the county.

The draft council plan details how Essex County Council intends to transform the library service over the next four years – including at its cornerstone how to help children and adults improve their reading in new literacy corners.

The authority has also pledged to develop a planned programme of building improvements that will consider upgrade and cosmetic improvements. There are also plans to develop the mobile library, and for a new online library platform with a more personalised service including bespoke recommendations based on borrowing habits.

More than 2,000 people and organisations responded to the survey as part of the Essex Draft Library Plan.

The launch of Everyone’s Library Service, scheduled for April 2022, will see the start of the new re-imagined library service.

Councillor Louise McKinlay, cabinet member responsible for libraries, told Essex County Council people’s and families policy scrutiny committee: “The aim is that by the end of June every library will have a literacy corner.

“That is a physical corner and I suspect these will morph over time as we get feedback and improve on them.

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“But we are very much looking at providing a space where we can promote literacy not just for little ones.

“But I can start with children thinking about the word of the week, digraphs and how they can learn to read and write and what that means for school readiness.

“But then also what is needed for additional support for adults and to really be able to use these places – this is the visible side of the literacy aspect.

“In time we will be delivering services from these corners which will be very targeted particularly in some of the more deprived areas where we know school readiness and good levels of development are lower than they are elsewhere.

“So we need to make sure we have the tools to be able to do it.

“It is not just to encourage people to go to the library but we are taking that next step further and thinking about the additional support that some of these communities may need and giving them the information they may need.”

Campaigners have said the 2,000 responses received by Essex County Council for its recently closed consultation into the future of the county’s libraries, have proved right its concerns about a lack of publicity for and access to the consultation.

A spokesperson for Save Our Libraries Essex said: “Some campaigners have given a cautious welcome to the draft proposals, particularly as plans replace the current set up with so-called ‘community libraries’ – or more appropriately charity shop libraries – appear to have been dropped.

“However, campaigners still seek an assurance from the council that any takeover bid for a library will be rejected, and demand that library spaces are not reduced or new charges introduced, and that the half a million books cut over the last decade should be replaced.”

Essex County Council had planned to close 25 of its 74 libraries in 2018 before local outcry and a star-studded campaign from famous authors convinced the authority to change its mind.

Street view of Great Dunmow Library, Essex

Dunmow Library - Credit: Archant

Libraries in Stansted and Thaxted would have closed, while the hours at Dunmow Library and Saffron Walden Library would have been reduced.

Street view of Saffron Walden Library, Essex

Saffron Walden Library - Credit: Archant

Essex County Council has now committed to keeping all 74 libraries open.

Essex Year of Reading

Essex County Councillors Tony Ball, Kevin Bentley, Ray Gooding, Mark Durham, Beverley Egan with books

Essex county councillors at the launch of Essex Year of Reading. Pictured from left: Tony Ball, Kevin Bentley, Ray Gooding, Mark Durham, Beverley Egan. - Credit: submitted

The news comes as a £1million campaign is launched called the Essex Year of Reading created by the Essex Education Taskforce.

The plan is to help children and young people affected by the loss of learning during the pandemic, and to ensure that every Essex child who is able, leaves school able to read at their age level or above.

A large programme of activities, events and opportunities are planned.

The programme will focus on providing additional support through schools to help children improve their reading skills via a number of initiatives.

This will include author visits, writing workshops and activities targeted at pre-school children through to care home partnerships. 

Pictured at the launch were Tony Ball, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Lifelong Learning and Employability; Councillor Kevin Bentley, Leader of Essex County Council; Councillor Ray Gooding, Essex County Councillor for Stansted; Councillor Mark Durham, Essex County Council's Deputy Cabinet Member for Devolution, Art, Heritage and Culture; Councillor Beverley Egan, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Early Years.