End of road for mobile libraries

Mobile Library
Mobile Library

DESPITE hundreds of signatures gathered on petitions around the region, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has decided to scrap the mobile library service which covers the Whitby district.

The standard mobile library service will end in September, saving the council an estimated £592,000 in the first year.

Rural Action Yorkshire chairperson Linda Lloyd, a Castleton resident, said: “I think if we were in a town there would be enough heads to make a great big wave to stop this, but we can only create a ripple.

“It’s almost as if because you are rural you are not important because there’s not enough of you to fight back.”

The decision to scrap the service is in opposition to the results of a NYCC survey that stated only 3.4% of library users believed that scrapping or reducing the mobile library service was a good way to save money.

Of the 6,000 people surveyed, 20% claimed to be users of the mobile library service.

However, the monetary cost of mobile libraries is clear – for everyone who uses a mobile library the estimate cost is on average £77.50 per year, whereas the average cost of a person using a branch library is only £16.50 per year.

County councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for the Library and Information Service, said: “We have listened hard during this extensive consultation and feel heartened that our outstanding libraries are held in such high regard as centres of excellence for reading, learning and community engagement.

“For this reason, we believe the solution we have now put together will help to sustain a vital service into the future, shared across the county while making the necessary savings.”

To compensate for the loss of the 10 mobile libraries, the “super mobile” service is set to be expanded, with a new route expected to serve Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes, Sleights, Castleton and Danby.

At present it can be found in Sleights on Mondays and Wednesdays, but this will be reduced so the library is only in each of these villages once every fortnight, for a few hours.

– continued on page 3

Linda Grout, of Danby Parish Council, said: “I think we knew it was coming.

“If we get this new super library we have a little community Heather Hopper which could bring people from the villages to it.

“We will cope somehow.”

Seen as an alternative to mobile libraries, community projects may form library outlets in village halls, shops and pubs.

A pub library has been established in Hudswell, Swaledale, with the help of the local community.

A spokesman for the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation which promotes social enterprises and has been closely involved in the Hudswell project, said: “The villagers of Hudswell are a fantastic example of what can be achieved when a community is empowered to deliver its own services.

“This is done through the support of the County Council and other organisations like the Plunkett Foundation, which helped Hudswell to establish a formal legal structure – a co-operative –that enabled them to save not only their library but their pub and shop.”

NYCC is required to save £69m over the next few years and £2m was set to be found from the library budget.

After additional funding was found this was reduced to £1.7m but the mobile libraries have still fallen foul of the cuts.

The final decision for these proposals is to be made at a NYCC meeting to take place on Tuesday.