“People are getting everything electronically now,”: residents share their views on future of county library service

Thaxted Library.

Thaxted Library. - Credit: Archant

The consultation on the future of library services in Essex will finish in just under a month’s time and residents in and around Dunmow have been sharing their thoughts on the issue.

Residents are being asked to have their say in a consultation on plans to close 25 libraries across the county, including those in Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted.

With the consultation closing on February 20, there is still of time to have your say and as of January 9, more than 13,000 surveys had been completed.

Essex County Council says there have been responses from organisations and people who are interested in running community libraries, where that could be a potential future option.

Maria Glendoepel, from Flitch Green, said the library service should be kept for children and elderly people, despite not using the library herself.

She said: “I don’t use the library anymore – it’s a shame. I either buy books or share books with friends.”

Maria said she used to visit the library a lot when she was younger. What’s changed?

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“I think we just go out and buy books now instead of borrowing them,” she said. “And the books you want, you can’t get. So you have to wait. People are getting everything electronically now.

“I think for children, it’s fantastic, the reading time – that would be a treat going into the library and choosing your books and if they had a story time going on or something, we’d do that. And for the elderly, it’s probably a bit of a hub.”

George Kellick, who lives near Thaxted, said he meets his friends at the library in Dunmow and would be negatively affected if it reduced its hours.

“I’m not a member, but I’m in there every day reading. I read the papers,” Mr Kellick said.

Susan Clawes, 61, who used to live in Essex and has been visiting her mother who lives in Little Hallingbury, remembered when her father used to take her to Harlow library to pick out books.

Mrs Clawes said: “We used to go every Saturday with my dad and he’d pick out anything that had a gun on the front and we’d pick out pony books. My mum is 90, but she uses audible books. I put Samuel Pepys on and she listens to it every day.

“Records are coming back now because the feel of things, children are all on screens but even the feel of a book is really important - just picking it up. I’ve got my children’s books I read to them when they were little.”

Susan said it was books that gave her father an extra two years when he had dementia, but books do need to be geared towards the older generation – and although large prints do already exist, she said they need to be lightweight.

“I think it’s about a redesign of reading – maybe making it bigger print but lighter weight,” she said.

Hannah Jones, 28, from Newport, who was in Dunmow with her seven-month-old son, said she stopped using the library because she reads digitally.

“I used to love the library when I was younger,” she said. “I used to love how many books I could get out...I would like it to carry on for when he [her son] is old enough to go in and pick books.”

Essex County councillor Sue Barker, cabinet member for customer and corporate said she is “really pleased” with the high number of responses to the public consultation on the future of libraries in Essex.

“Thank you everyone for taking the time to share your views,” Cllr Barker said. “I would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet completed the survey to please do so.”

The consultation is open until February 20 and the survey can be found at essex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation.

Residents are encouraged to complete the survey online, however, if this is not possible the survey can be completed over the phone on 0345 603 7639 or a paper copy, large print or EasyRead version can be sent to you.