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Your Library Is Still in Danger

Note of meeting on Friday 4th March 2011

Around 50 people came to this event to hear our ideas for Milton Road Library. They included users of other libraries responding to our invitation to consider how they might be applied to other libraries in Cambridge. Michael Bond's presentation can be viewed here.

 Richard Robertson of Friends of Milton Road Library presented their vision of the role of friends in the library service and made it clear that if the use of the library is to be extended there would have to be changes in layout and the way access to the building is managed.

Sir Peter Brown, Executive County Councillor for Community and Adult Services, and Christine May, Acting Head of Libraries, responded to the ideas presented and answered questions from the floor.

The Association wishes to take on the management of Milton Road Library and develop it as a community hub for West Chesterton. This idea is not part of the County Council's preferred approach of co-operation with other authorities in a joint back office approach to preparing and cataloguing library stock and creating a county-wide trust to take over and manage the whole library service within Cambridgeshire.

A questioner noted that only 9% of the original respondents to the County Council's 2010 engagement exercise were exclusive users of Central Library and wondered if the cuts emphasis should be there rather than on the branches most people used. Christine May said some of the cuts would affect Central Library but that its role was wider than that of branches and also it differed in scale being open longer and with a much larger patronage.

Several questioners were concerned about access to Central Library for disabled people which they rated very poor by comparison with access to branch libraries.

 The County Council has made much of the fact that libraries outside Cambridge are much farther apart. Michael Bond pointed out that these were mostly in the larger towns and villages and that outside these the population was quite thinly spread. The majority of people in rural Cambridgeshire were actually within two miles of a library. The Cambridge branch libraries each served a population greater than that of Wisbech or St Neots (Cambridgeshire's largest towns).

There will now a be a three month consultation on the County Council's proposals running from now until mid-May. The Community Association will continue to pursue its aim of securing real local involvement in local services.



County Council Cabinet Adopts Cost Cutting Report

At its metring on 25th January ther County Council's Cabinet adopted in full its officers recommendations on the future of the library service which will now be subject to formal consultation. Richard Robertson of the Friends of Milton Road Library has produced teh following report which is an excellent summary of the current position.

From the Friends of Milton Road Library

As you may have gathered from the news this week, the County Council has been told to make even bigger savings than had been thought. Many people feel that the level of cuts being forced through by the Government is much higher than it needs to be, and is risking the fragile recovery in the economy going into reverse. However cuts are what we face and what the local councils have to respond to.

On libraries the County Council published a set of reports on the results of the consultation and various aspects of their plans for making savings. The positive side of the plans are that the biggest part of the savings would be in the back office functions though they are dependant on some very uncertain factors turning out to be workable in practice.

 The recommendations were all for more work to be done on the following: 

  1. creating a charitable trust to run the libraries, archive, adult learning and cultural services on behalf of the council.
  2. developing participation with Essex and Suffolk on book buying, rotation and disposal; on electronic services, and on information and enquiries
  3. prioritising local libraries “which serve the largest populations and communities with the greatest need”
  4. exploring ways to run local libraries as part of shared facilities in communities
  5. running libraries with less paid staff through people checking books out and back in themselves and increased use of volunteers.
  6. further public consultation on details of these proposals 

The number of paid staff in the libraries would reduce and supervisors would manage several libraries rather than there being one for each. This makes big assumptions about the scale of voluntary work we, the community, will be expected to contribute. People will need to be found:

    • to be trustees of the charity,
    • to run active “friends” groups and a Community Management Board for each library (or cluster of libraries)
    • to volunteer in each library, for instance helping explain research facilities, the lending system or IT services, especially for children and older people 

There is the stated threat that there will be library closures if ways cannot be found to move to shared use of local libraries or their transfer to community managed and operated service points. 

The position of Milton Road Library is difficult to assess. On the one hand we came out extremely well in the assessment of “performance” of all the local libraries in the County, coming equal first with Great Shelford on usage in 2009/10, trends in usage over 5 years, and cost per user. Even in the “community need” assessment we were about half way down the list, but on that criteria assessing us within the City only, Rock Road and Milton Road are lower down than the other three. This fact is highlighted in a separate report reviewing library provision just in Cambridge and could be indicative of a real threat of closure of the two libraries as not serving communities with “the greatest need”. 

The response to the public consultation was extremely good with 5,648 questionnaires submitted, “far exceeding expectations and demonstrating the high level of public feeling and support for library services”, so well done all of us here and around the county. In fact it appears that there was a better response from the users of local city libraries than from the rural community and users of the central library, so well done us! In the County Cabinet meeting it was acknowledged that in Cambridgeshire we are “passionate” and “fiercely protective” of our local libraries.

 The questionnaires provided a good deal of data but I will mention in particular:

  1. only 15% to 30% of people would be prepared to pay a “reasonable charge” for various services, and a similar number would not use them at all if charged
  2. we wanted older people, children/young people and unemployed people to be the groups to be prioritised if services had to be cut
  3. the ideas of using library buildings as community meeting places and shared use were given good support, rather than having fewer bigger libraries, more e-books or putting books to lend in doctors’ surgeries, pubs or community centres
  4. self-service machines for checking books out and back in got good support
  5. volunteering (in various ways) was supported by just under half the respondents but 52% ignored the question

 This review of the questionnaires and the whole set of papers on libraries are available to read on the County Council web site at:

Follow the “Link to Cabinet Report” to find all the detailed reports but the report on the Public Consultation has its own link.

 The struggle to keep Milton Road library open has to continue. There is a very real threat of closure and we need to discuss and explore options and actions. The “action group” of the Friends of Milton Road library is meeting next Tuesday evening (1st February) so if you would like to come along and help, please let me know - by email or leaving a note at the library.

 And remember to keep using the library and encourage others to do so as well.

  Richard Robertson

Bid launched to take over the management of
Cambridge’s Local libraries

Chesterton Community Association is putting two proposals before the County Council as part of its response to the County Council’s current ‘engagement’ exercise on the future of the library service in Cambridgeshire.

The Association wishes to take on the management of Milton Road Library and develop it as a community hub for East Chesterton. In working up this proposal the idea of adopting the same approach for all the City’s local libraries emerged as a second proposal:To create a trust to take over the management of all five local libraries in Cambridge. A report exploring this idea can be viewed here.

Do you want to help?

Working up this proposal and turning the dream into reality will require a lot of work and we need expressions of support to help us secure a deal with the County Council.

Once we have a deal the real work starts: putting in place the administrative and management systems to run the buildings and then raising substantial funds to develop the buildings as real community hubs.

We will only achieve any of this with the support of people from the city. To indicate your support please use the Contact Us page on this website.


Library Service Review - Cambridge City Council

Cambridgeshire County Council has commenced public consultation today, 9 August 2010, on their review of library services. As people involved in residents’ associations and community groups, Cambridge City Council is keen to ensure that you are made aware of the consultation, in order to give you the opportunity to get involved.

The consultation includes a series of public meetings, road shows touring the County and a questionnaire available from libraries. There will be a roadshow in the Grafton Centre from 9 - 14 August. The questionnaire is available online from today via the library website.

These are the dates and venues for the public meetings taking place during August and September:

9 August, 6.30-8.30pm, East Cambridgeshire, Little Thetford Village Hall
10 August, 7.00-9.00pm, Cambridge, Central Library
12 August, 6.30-8.30pm, South Cambridgeshire, Over Conference & Community Centre
13 August, 6.30-8.30 pm, Huntingdonshire, Huntingdon Library
18 August, 6.30- 8.30pm, Fenland, March Library
7 September, 6.30-8.30 pm, East Cambridgeshire, Little Thetford Village Hall
9 September, 7.00-9.00 pm, Cambridge, Central Library
10 September, 6.30-8.30pm, Fenland, March Library
14 September, 6.30-8.30pm, South Cambridgeshire, Over Conference & Community Centre
16 September, 6.30- 8.30pm, Huntingdonshire, Huntingdon Library

This is for information purposes only. Cambridge City Council is not carrying out Consultation on the library service review, as we do not have responsibility for library services. The City Council will be producing a response to the library consultation.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding the library service review, please contact Cambridgeshire County Council by telephone on 0345 045 5225, by email at your.library@Cambridgeshire.gov.uk or by post at Cambridgeshire Libraries, Archives and Information, Box No. CC1111, Castle Court, Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 0AP.

Milton Road Library

Cambridgeshire County Council recently announced that Milton Road Library is to be subject to a review over the summer, as budget cuts have to be made.

Time is passing and we need to make sure as many people as possible make their views on Milton Road library known to the County Council. By kind permission of the governors and head of Milton Road school we will be holding a meeting in the school hall at 3.30 on Tuesday afternoon - 7 September.

A poster you can print and put up can be found here. Please tell people about the meeting, get them to come along and say what they value in their local facility.

The Council questionnaires are flooding in but there are still more needed. The on-line questionnaire is at: http://hipweb.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/clig/library_service_review.html   Please use the box at the end of the questionnaire to express views on your local library.

We would encourage you to complete this but in particular to express your views on your local library and its future - a matter which the questionnaire does not directly ask about! There is a box at the end of the questionnaire for comments.

You can pick up a questionnaire at the library or, to print it off or compete it on-line, go to: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/news/libservicereview/

A poster for you to print off and pass on, or put up in your neighbourhood giving details about the questionaire can be found here..

We are planning to hold a public meeting in the week commencing 6 September but due to school holidays we have not yet been able to make contact with Milton Road School. More news on this will be sent as soon as possible.

Lets make sure our views are heard by the Council.

The Friends of Milton Road Library are concerned that many local people will not be able to be involved in this so called “consultation” and we think public meetings should be held locally and at times which enable the community to attend.

We will keep you informed but it would be useful if you could say when would be a good time for the meeting to be held. If it was after school one day it would exclude those at work and would have to be at least 30 minutes after school to enable children and parents from other schools to get there. If it was in the evening then less children could attend. If it was on a Saturday that can also be a busy day for some. Please let us have your thoughts at fmr.library@gmail.com on this and we will see what can be agreed which would suit the most people.

Meanwhile we are collecting information, talking to the other local library users and adding more and more people to our lists of those concerned about the future of our local library. Please pass on our email fmr.library@gmail.com or postal address  c/o 73 Humberstone Road, Cambridge CB4 1JD to anyone you know who wants to be involved in the consultation.

The Friends of Milton Road Library are keen that as many people as possible become involved in the consultation, to ensure our councillors know how much we value this local service. We now have over 100 contacts but could always use more.

Please follow this link to view a campaign poster which can be printed and used anywhere you think will be effective.

If you would like to be kept informed of developments, and how to make your views known, then please join our email list by sending a message to fmr.library@gmail.com. If you are not on email then send your name and address to the secretary of the Friends, Rev Dorothy Peyton Jones at 71 Humberstone Road, Cambridge CB4 1JD.

A group has also formed to support Arbury Court Library and we expect to keep in close touch with them.

Full County Council meeting report

Richard Robinson, the Chair of the Friends of Milton Road Library, attended the Full County Council meeting on Tuesday 20 July at 10.30am at Shire Hall and was granted time to ask the following questions:

Is it correct that the consultation on local library services is to involve external consultants? If so how much is it envisaged they will cost and why are the existing Council staff not being used to do the work?

  • Reply from Sir Peter Brown, Executive Councillor for Communities, saying that it was not correct that consultants would be used although there would be costs incurred in progressing the consultation. Consultants had been used to provide a full report on the service, delivered to the Council in November 2009, which was available on the County Council's website.

Can we and other library user groups assist in planning the consultation to help ensure that it involves as wide a range of the community as possible?

  • Richard reminded Sir Peter that he had not actually answered the second question and was advised that there would be a full consultation involving members and officers with meetings and discussion with users and staff of the library service.

If you want to see what the consultants have written click here to go to the County Council website. The document is 78 pages long and covers the whole county library service.

Arbury Communtiy Centre meeting report

Around 40 people attended a lively meeting at Arbury Communtiy Centre on Saturday 17 July when it was agreed to campaign hard for retention of all the local libraries in Cambridge. The County Council will be approving the Cabinet decision to agree the following recommendation for the future of library services:


Cabinet is asked to agree to the recommendations and proposals set out in the report as the basis for full public engagement and consultation. These are:

  • i) To endorse the work underway on alternative options for governance, management and support;
  • ii) To agree to officers urgently pursuing an alternative approach to service delivery based on self service technology and greater community involvement
  • iii) To agree to officers undertaking an urgent review of library provision in Cambridge City and the surrounding area
  • iv) To agree to the approach suggested for identifying libraries for closure, should this be required
  • v) To agree to the implementation of proposals for savings on support for Library Access Points, especially in relation to stock provision
  • vi) To agree to the implementation of proposals for savings on the Mobile Service, based on a move to monthly stops
  • vii) To authorise officers to proceed with full public engagement about library services and consultation on the proposals above

The above was taken from the County Council report.  

Arbury Court Library

Michael Bond raised the issue with the North Area Committee at its regular meeting on 15 July and was pleased to find that its members were unanimous in reflecting concern at any possible reduction of this important service and keen to explore ways in which our libraries, as important community resources, can be retained and improved as community hubs.

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