The friends of Ottery Library (FOOL) have been active in discussions with a number of local groups, including the Town Council, on how to save the library as Devon County Council intend to cut overall library expenditure by £1.5 million by 2017.
Chairman James Goddard said: “We’ve had support from individuals and our discussions with schools, the Chamber of Commerce and others has been encouraging. Additionally, we have used social media to good effect.”
Responses to the Devon County Council questionnaire had to be submitted by 17th July and we thank all those who participated. Our library should be favourably treated as, despite its physical problems, it’s one of the most efficient in the county.”
In a presentation to the Ottery St Mary Town Council, he stressed the group’s desire to work with town and county officials to maintain a good library service with professional staff. As the local population was set to expand over the next few years, it was important that the library, which serves all ages, should be able to meet the increased demand.
Philip Algar, a committee member, said that FOOL welcomed the very positive stance shown by the Ottery St Mary Town Council in a letter to the Devon County Council.
It emphasised that the library, which was not purpose-built, was based on a hill, lacked access for those with mobility problems and a pavement at the entrance, automatic doors and no way of circumventing the entrance steps. It had suffered under-investment for years.
Both councils agreed that the library building was not fit for purpose. The Town Council noted that there were alternative locations in the town, including redundant County buildings, that could be used as a new site, together with other services.
The local council is concerned that DCC’s proposals “currently run counter to plans for the strategic development of East Devon”.
New developments would boost the local population by up to 25 per cent and “the major expansion that is in hand necessarily needs to be reflected in your plans for the County’s library service”.
The county’s current proposals for Honiton to provide a “Devon Centre” for the people of Ottery were unsatisfactory. “Public transport from Ottery to Honiton does not provide suitable options for most people, especially for those on lower incomes”.
The Town Council letter said that “We wish to work with you in securing a continuing library service… that has professional staffing…and that is not solely reliant on volunteers”. There are 50 libraries in Devon and 22 have been provisionally designated “Devon Centres” and the remaining 28 might be voluntary-run libraries, including that in Ottery.
The Town Council favours a middle way and contends that Ottery clearly qualifies for such status.