Garfield Kennedy

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Shepton West Learn more

Shepton Mallet’s Library saved by People Power!

by Garfield Kennedy on 25 January, 2011

Phew!

People Power wins a stay of execution for us in Shepton.  Others aren’t so lucky especially towns like Porlock, Highbridge, Watchet, Sunningdale, Bishop’s Lydeard, Bruton, South Petherton, North Petherton, Nether Stowey, Milborne Port and Priorswood – that all face closure.  Highbridge and many of the rural areas are no better off than Shepton – so why should we stand by and let this happen?

One of my favourite quotations on libraries comes from one of my favourite authors, American self-taught historian and Pulitzer-prize winning author, Barbara Tuchman:  “Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library.”

The campaign in Shepton started with an open-hearted spirit and a strong bond with the Friends of Glastonbury Library.  Like many others, I want to see the strength of our community (expressed so vocally at the “consultation” meeting) carry on to help our neighbours.

What I really can’t stand about this whole process is the setting of town against town in some sort of sick beauty contest.  I think it insults all of us. I question this £1.35m figure that Ken Maddock seems to think is set in stone that we are told we must save at all costs. The Somerset County Council settlement from national government was substantially better that expected so why are we still ripping up the pews and selling the family silver?

If we cut the hours across the board by 20% as now proposed, we reduce the service, and we potentially reduce the demand since the library becomes a part-time and inconsistent service – and next we’ll all be back on the chopping block. This community has shown how much it wants and needs its centrally-located library.  At a time of squeeze and cuts the portal to opportunity and knowledge that the libraries offer to all-comers is even more important than at times of relative plenty.

We should rejoice that as a community we have united and saved the absolute closure of our library. But let us not forget that 11 other libraries are still threatened with having their doors slammed shut – for ever.   We owe it to our neighbours (and ourselves) to keep the campaign alive to protect ALL our libraries.

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