Having dropped a bill that would have seen dozens of libraries shut instantly across Essex, local councillors are now trying a different approach.
Protests against library closures have seen some of the biggest turn outs the county has seen in years. Often seen as a Tory and right wing strong hold, Essex tends to get a bad rap among the left. However its communities, villages, towns and cities leapt into action against measures to shut twenty five libraries for good.
Children and Elderly
Children and the elderly as well as library employees and sympathetic folk of all walks of life have made things difficult for local councillors. The largest protests saw up to two thousand people and even in some small villages as many as two hundred protested.
In response, Essex County Council have now dropped plans to close libraries, but are instead intending to palm off the running of nearly 20 of them onto volunteers and further numbers to partner and charitable organisations, depriving the people of Essex of trained librarians and librarians of their jobs. This plan is being disguised behind promises of £3 million of investment in existing libraries (most likely the large central libraries which they wanted to invest in anyway as a way of justifying shutting down village and rural libraries) and a promise to “not close any libraries for five years”.
These protests have, so far, shown us what we already knew, that voting does not mean you have a voice. You have a voice when people shout loud enough to be heard in County Hall.
“Save Our Libraries”
The group behind organising the protests, petitions and actions is SOLE (Save Our Libraries Essex) who will continue the fight to save our libraries. Essex communities have been fairly successful in stopping other attempts to strip away resources before, i.e the battle against the closure of Southend Hospital.
The struggle has had coverage from Radical newspapers such as Jackdaw and the South Essex Heckler as well as local Essex papers. Calls from celebrity authors such as David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson also brought the story to national attention with inches in the guardian.
The ACG supports SOLE’s call for a day of action across Essex on Saturday 28th September 2019.