• Is Ottery’s library being penalised because of its building?

    17th April 2014 | News | Claire
  • Unfortunately, the future of Ottery’s library is one of those looking rather precarious.

    Bluntly, unless volunteers come forward to run it, it will shut.

    The move is due to the government’s crippling cuts to council budgets, which will lose around 40 per cent of funding by 2017.  A £110m cut. A similar amount was cut in the last administration.

    Anyone who is under the impression that Ottery’s library is empty half the time couldn’t be more wrong.

    Actually, it is one of the highest performing libraries in the county, being ranked 29 or 30 out of 50, for the number of active borrowers, items borrowed, number of computer sessions and overall visits.

    Of course, things have changed and like most libraries it has seen a shift away from the traditional books only service. But staff have adapted and the library has continued to be successful.

    Admittedly, there has been a downturn in visitor numbers in the last couple of years, but officers believe that this is linked to a cut in opening hours, following the last set of government cuts to council budgets.

    Children and teenagers appear to be big users of the library, being responsible for 37 per cent of all borrowing activity.

    But of the three main criteria set by Devon County Council to assess those libraries to be funded in the future and those that are set to be shut, unless volunteers come forward, it appears that Ottery library’s building may have given it a big black mark.

    The criteria are:  population in the catchment area (in Ottery’s case 14,019), performance and … state of the building.

    In two out of three of those criteria, Ottery scores highly. So how much of the decision to withdraw funding from Ottery is down to its building and lack of disabled access?  (Staff help people with disability problems up and down the steps).

    So a new building needs to be found. Yes absolutely. And volunteers must be found to run it. Yes absolutely. And yes, Devon County Council will provide start-up money, although it is unclear how much this will be and how long it will be provided for. 

    But even if a new building were to be found … and volunteers came forward … and start-up money provided, this doesn’t solve the problem of the ongoing running costs, which during 2012/13 amounted to around £43,000 a year – and that’s without book stock taken into account.

    There is a drop-in session at Ottery library on Friday 9 May, between 1 and 3pm, where managers will be on hand to answer questions.

    To read more about the background to this issue and to make a comment on the consultation, click here – http://new.devon.gov.uk/libraryreview/

    I would also be keen to know your thoughts, so please do leave me a comment.

    The consultation closes on Thursday 17 July.