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Thousands become library users amid protests over cuts

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 06, 2013

We'll fight: A founder member of the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign Paul Stainthorp, centre left, hands petitions over to Lincolnshire County Council Head of Democratic Services Nigel West right; assistant head at the Priory Academy LSST Nick Brown, below on left, delivering boxes of around 1,500 completed forms from pupils

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More than 5,000 people have joined libraries across Lincolnshire since plans to close them were revealed.

But despite the new members, the county council insists library usage is still falling.

In June, Lincolnshire County Council announced its aim of shutting 32 of 47 libraries, in a bid to save £2 million from its budget.

Since then, 5,294 new members joined the service during July and August.

However the number of books, DVDs and CDs issued by libraries is down.

According to figures, there were 235,743 issues in July this year compared with 278,994 in July 2012.

Meanwhile there were 246,374 issues in August this year compared with 287,248 in August 2012.

In addition, the council says the number of people taking up membership is 922 fewer than last year's figures for the same two months.

Campaigners marked the end of a three-month consultation period into the proposals by handing in petitions, with more than 22,000 signatures, to the Coalition-led authority on Monday.

Nine days earlier, more than 400 protestors marched through Lincoln city centre.

University of Lincoln librarian Paul Stainthorp, 34, said: "Families with young children rely on books to help their children get a start in life.

"And everybody knows somebody, such as an older relative, who doesn't have access to the internet. It's true that not enough people use libraries, but cutting services is the worst place to start."

Following the ceremony on the steps of County Offices, a car stopped outside the building loaded with 1,500 consultation response forms from The Priory Academy LSST. Pupils filled out the questionnaire to make their voices heard.

Retired schoolteacher Julie Harrison, 59, said "I'm here because I'm in favour of people pushing themselves and learning – we've got to get children into libraries."

Stephen Palmer, Lincolnshire Independent councillor for Alford and Sutton, added: "If the Victorians thought they were important, they must be valuable."

The public feedback will be analysed by Sheffield Hallam University before the the institution's evaluation is sent back to the county council at the end of October. Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: "Despite the continuing decline in usage, we know there are still people who are passionate about libraries. And their views will be taken into consideration alongside those of everyone else who responds to our consultation.

"So far, 30 communities have been in touch about taking on their local library."

A communities scrutiny committee at Lincolnshire County Council will now debate the consultation results on December 2 before the authority's executive make its decision on December 3.

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  • Pete67  |  October 06 2013, 8:59AM

    Fascinating figures, but just because people don't borrow as many books, CDs or DVDs doesn't mean they don't use the library as much (there's much more to libraries than the lending service) . They put down also about people taking up membership being down, but they strangely omitting how many people are library members which will obviously be up due to people joining. If these are the best excuses the council can come up with for closing the libraries it about time they gave up their jobs, and let someone who is capable do it instead. I wonder if they'll say about cutting the council tax for the service that people will lose - I wouldn't bet on it.

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