A consultation into proposals to cut library services, which opponents have branded ‘destructive’ and ‘unfair’, is taking place in Skegness next week.
Lincolnshire County Council is hosting the event at The Storehouse, North Parade, from 2pm on Monday to discuss plans to cut opening hours and replace some libraries with mobile services.
Campaigners have urged residents to attend the meeting and oppose the changes as if it was ‘the closure of their cottage hospital’.
“When it’s gone, it will be gone for good - it will never come back,” said Skegness author William Hussey.
Mr Hussey and five of the UK’s best selling authors -Ian Rankin, Michael Morpurgo, Neil Gaiman, the children’s laureate Mallory Black and Val McDermid- have lent their support to the Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign, branding the process a ‘complete joke’.
The group fears these cost cutting measures will hit residents in villages and market towns the hardest, for whom visiting a library will become an ‘occasional luxury’.
Although Skegness library is one of 15 council-run facilities to be retained amid the changes - and will actually see a slight increase in opening hours - Mr Hussey remains concerned that replacing trained staff with volunteers will cause ‘huge, complex challenges’ in providing security, confidentiality and support to vulnerable service users.
“Volunteers going in without full training to run a library is just a complete joke,” he said.
In making the proposals, Mr Hussey feels the county council’s executive member for libraries Coun Nick Worth has ‘no idea what a modern library is about’.
The consultation itself has also been branded a ‘skewed, disingenuous process’, which fails to give those completing it a chance to properly air their views.
Independent county councillors in hard hit market towns such as Alford, which will see its library replaced by mobile visits, have heavily criticised the changes.
“I am absolutely ecstatic in the rejection of these unfair proposals at scrutiny,” said Coun Steve Palmer.
Spilsby Town Council, at its latest meeting last night, also branded the service cuts, totally unacceptable, and the consultation mereley a ‘fait accompli’.
UKIP has also condemned the proposals and suggested looking into multiple uses for libraries to ensure the viability with facilities such as youth clubs, coffee shops and council services.
“We cannot keep cutting front line services,” said UKIP leader Coun Chris Pain.
The county council says reductions in library usage, with only 18 per cent of Lincolnshire’s residents classed as ‘active borrowers’ have prompted the changes.
“The library service is changing, like it or not, and our vision for the future of the service is a comprehensive one, but one that remains both affordable and efficient,” said Coun Worth.
The consultation will also assist communities in taking over local libraries or set up their own, which Coun Worth believes can ‘actually create a library service that’s better tailored to each community’s individual needs’.
To attend you must book a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01522 782 010.