Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Save Botley Library Campaign's speech to Oxfordshire County Council

This speech was delivered by Mike Sage, chair of the The Save Botley Library campaign, to Oxfordshire County Council on Tuesday 15th February 2011.

I’m sure that you will be pleased to hear that I do not plan to use the short time that I have been given to list all of the many reasons why Botley – and the other 19 Libraries under threat of closure – should remain open, run by trained staff and librarians.

No Library Campaign is asking for libraries to be maintained by making additional cuts in other services. We are however calling upon the Council to be innovative in finding additional sources of funding for Libraries, either from central Government or from elsewhere, to add to those recently announced.

This will allow Botley and all of the other Oxfordshire Libraries to remain open, as part of an integrated network, run by trained staff and librarians providing the library service that Oxfordshire deserves.
The Save Botley Library Campaign does not support a two tier library system for Oxfordshire with 23 professionally run, Council managed, integrated libraries and a further 20 isolated, volunteer run book clubs.

We understand that if the proposed Library funding cuts are passed in the Budget today then there will be a 12 week public consultation process. If this occurs then we seek that this process be independent and transparent so that it truly reflects the views of the citizens of Oxfordshire and does not become a self justification for the proposals that have already been made.

What I have come here for is to ask on behalf of the users of Botley Library who I represent and for all library users across County, is that you do what you were elected to do - represent your constituents and rethink your plans for Oxfordshire’s libraries in order to find ways of keeping them all open.
  Nor does it support the wholesale outsourcing of Libraries to the private sector, whose profit driven motives would not guarantee the long term future for any of the existing facilities.

From the public reaction which you have seen across the County you must clearly understand that the residents reject the proposals which you have made for Oxfordshire Libraries. In Botley alone over 3500 people have to date signed a petition to keep their Library open, run by trained staff and librarians. In addition we have today delivered to Councillor Mitchell around 225 letters of protest from the residents of Botley and the surrounding area.

As intelligent people you understand that a library is more than just a place for lending out books. In Botley it is part of the local community and provides the only non-denominational place where people of all ages, socio-economic groups and political persuasions can come together. It is a place where people are welcomed to an environment staffed by professionally trained local people, who after many years of working there have extensive knowledge of the area and provide a wide range of services to assist people to access the information and entertainment that they need.

I’m sure that you are also well aware that the library is used by local primary schools during lesson time, which are part of the schools Community Cohesion role, an essential requirement for OFSTED grading. It is also an important out of school learning environment for children of all ages, including providing a safe place for teenagers to do their homework and computers for those who do not have access at home to do on-line research.

I know that you actually do understand why the “hub” system that has been proposed for Oxfordshire libraries will not provide a suitable ease and affordability of access for the elderly, the disabled and parents with small children, to name but a few.

Sitting here in Oxford and the seat of learning which it represents, I’m sure you will not want to be remembered as the Dr Beechings of the County’s libraries – those who dealt an unrecoverable death blow to 20 of Oxfordshire’s libraries.
                                                                            Thank You.

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