Libraries and books; what’s their future in the electronic information age? (From Kidderminster Shuttle)
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Libraries and books; what’s their future in the electronic information age?
‘Worcestershire County Council’ claim that it has “the best value county council library service in the UK”, delivering more for less, and costing “just 20p per county resident per week”.
So would a proposed brand new smaller library, built by the side of the old Parkside School building in Bromsgrove, be an improvement on the present one. I went to the public meeting held at the present town library, on the evening of 2nd October 2012, where the County Council’s ‘Library and Learning Team’ were present, to find out – the public consultation process ends on the 12th October 2012, questionnaires’ being available online at www.worcestershire.gov.uk/bromsgrovelibrary
We were told there that the cost of this new library and the refurbishment of the adjacent old Parkside School building for Council services would be £7 million and that the money was available.
On display were pictures of the abandoned decaying old school building, and a plan diagram of the proposed development on the Parkside site; yet no artist impressions to show what the inside and outside of a new library or the refurbished old school building might look like, so we could get some idea of what £7 million could achieve.
I was surprised though to be told that the old school building that was opened in 1912 and that closed its doors in Easter 2008 did not require double glazed windows; so what would the annual cost be of keeping this old building warm I wonder?
The present library has an adjacent free car park, yet it looks unlikely that a new library would have any library parking at all and the nearest bus stops are a long walk away; so can this smaller library really be better.
Well the controversial iconic building in Worcester called the ‘Hive’, that cost £60 million to construct, has within it a super public library, with 10,000m2 of public space over five floors, a quarter of a million books, and anticipates having over one million visitors a year.
While saving money by down-sizing can sometimes be a financial disaster; as was the case with the saga involving Bromsgrove’s Market Hall, which was demolished in April 2010, after Bromsgrove District Council claimed that it had been losing £4,000 a month.
Built 15 years earlier for half a million pounds, to replace the larger older Market Hall, and another £35,000 to demolish it to create another car park; the perceived view of the Council was that the building was unsuitable for other uses and that it had to be demolished to save money. Yet it’s claimed that a new smaller library would have more space for adult and children’s learning, extra meeting space, increased wifi and internet access, a cafe and longer opening hours.
Libraries are an obvious easy target when having to decide where financial priorities lie; but they are an essential part of a civilised society - Libraries and Learning services’ purchase approximately 97,000 books a year; over 25,000 young people between 13 and 19 years old regularly use the library and there are 183 adult readers groups based in libraries.
So give us all the important facts before committing such vast sums of money on libraries as we’re still seeing millions of pounds wasted after bad decision making - the latest incompetence involving the bidding for the ‘West Coast Main Line’.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that his department's mistakes would cost the taxpayer at least 40 million pounds; a relatively small but politically awkward sum. So is half a million, or even seven million pounds, classed as only a small sum by some of our Councilors’; if things do not turn out as originally expected.
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