Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mike Sage's speech at the Save Botley Library Public Meeting

Save Botley Library Public Meeting
Seacourt Hall - Thursday 23rd June 2011


Thank you for coming here tonight and for all of your support in the campaign to Save Botley Library.

I am Mike Sage, Chair of the Steering Group that is running your campaign. I am joined by some of the members of the Steering Group, including Neil Clark and Andrew Pritchard Chair & vice Chair of the Parish Council, Lorraine Bonner-Woods, Emily Burgoyne, Jennie Hopkins and Anissa Schlichting.

We would like to give you an update on where we are on the journey to keep Botley Library open, run by trained staff and librarians.

Where have we come from?

In November 2010 Oxfordshire County Council announced that it was planning to remove funding from 20 of the 43 Oxfordshire Libraries on the basis that the remaining 23 account for 82% of Library visits. Botley was in the group of 20 for which funding would cease although it accounted third largest number of visits in the County.

Since that time the residents of Botley have been campaigning to Save Botley Library. The support for this Campaign has been fantastic, showing the strength of Public Support for the retention of the Library in their community.

Our Petition, Library events and protests have, we are sure, focussed the attention of the County Council on its’ decision for the future of Libraries. More often than not, when the subject of Library closures has been in the media (press, radio or TV) Botley Library and our campaign to save it have been featured. We have to thank Neil Clark our Media Communications Officer for that.

Where are we now?

On 27th May Oxfordshire County Council announced a proposal for the “future Library service for Oxfordshire”. This followed a more thorough look at the requirements for libraries across the County and will form the basis of a Public Consultation through to 30th September. An increase in the provision of funding from central government means that no changes to the library service will need to be made to meet the 2011/12Council budget.

The basis of the proposal is to keep all libraries open, with a good stock of books, public access computers and online resources. However, not all libraries will be fully funded and nearly half of them will need some form of volunteer support to operate.

The proposal categorises Oxfordshire Libraries into five key groups:
- Groups 1 & 2 comprise the 22 core libraries which will be fully funded and resourced. I am pleased to confirm that Botley is in this grouping which accounts for around 85% of all issues, visits and library users.
- Group 3 are community plus libraries and will be run by two thirds paid staff and one third volunteers, although they only account for around 5% of usage.
- Groups 4 & 5 are the balance of the Counties libraries and will be run by one third paid staff and two thirds volunteers, accounting for around 10% of usage.
Whilst in the current proposal Botley library will be fully funded and run by trained staff and librarians, the campaign remains opposed to the use of volunteers to provide core services in any library. We will therefore continue to support the Save Oxfordshire Libraries alliance in their efforts to question the use of volunteers in Groups 3, 4 & 5.
The proposal also previews the Councils aspirations to enhance the library service to ensure that it is fit for the 21st century. These include investigating: the provision of free Wi-Fi across the library network; improving the library website for online access; delivering eAudio and eBooks via the website.

The Library Service Consultation Document includes a Feedback Form to allow all residents to have their say.

Where are we going?

We now need to complete as many Feedback Forms for Library Service Consultation as possible, in order to make the Council fully aware of how we feel about our library.
This can be done online at the County Council Library Services web page or by filling in the forms available from the Library and here tonight.

Your Steering Group has produced some guidance notes with some suggestions for handling some of the trickier questions on the form. These are available here tonight and are on our website

Over the coming weeks we will be running a number of events to promote the completion of the Feedback Forms. This will include events in this hall, in the Library and during the North Hinksey Festival we hope to have some form of small celebration in the precinct to mark our success to date.

The County Council is also offering a library service consultation event to all libraries. It is up to us to define what form this will take and so if any of you have any views on this we are keen to hear them. We will also consult with the Save Oxfordshire Libraries alliance to hear what is other planned by other libraries.

Watch our website and the Notice boards around the Parish for information on all of the events and if you haven’t already done so leave us your e-mail address and we will add you to our supporters’ communications.

At the end of the Consultation period the results will be reported to the Council Cabinet in late autumn 2011 for a decision as to whether or not to take the proposal forward. If agreed implementation will start from April 2012.

What happens after we have saved the Library Funding?

Once full funding has been secured we then have the further issue that the Vale District Council is proposing a redevelopment of the site on which the library building is located (as well as this Hall). We need to ensure that this redevelopment results in an improved facility for the Botley Library at the heart of the development.

You can hear more about this if you stay for the Parish Council meeting which follows this meeting. However, the Save Botley Library Campaign will be seeking that the facilities available for the Botley Library in any new development are an improvement over the current library.

Thank you for coming tonight and thank you again for all of the support that you have given to the Save Botley Library campaign. We need one more big push now with completing the Consultation Feedback Forms and then we should get to keep the Library service that Botley deserves.

If you have any questions, I or one of my colleagues on the Steering Group will endeavour to answer them.

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