Some St Albans mobile libraries spared the axe
A NUMBER of mobile library stopping points in the St Albans district which were threatened with the axe have been reprieved after an outcry from users.
Eleven routes currently served by the mobile library service in the district were earmarked to be discontinued by the end of May as part of county council’s cost-saving measures.
But a meeting of the county cabinet on Monday agreed to retain a number of the stops which were to have been axed and nearly every part of the district has now been left with at least one mobile library stopping point.
The county council is pressing ahead with reduced hours for static libraries across the district but there was a proportionately higher number of borrowers who objected to the proposed cuts in the mobile library service.
They pointed to concerns about the service being a lifeline to elderly and disabled customers, the value attached to the mobile libraries and their staff in many areas and the difficulty people living in rural areas would have travelling to static facilities.
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Among four countywide petitions was one signed by 215 residents of Chiswell Green asking for one of the two mobile library stops in the village to be reprieved – and in the event the cabinet agreed to keep the far busier facility outside the Three Hammers pub and axe the site in Tennyson Road.
Among others which will be retained – although visits will be shorter in duration and delivered fortnightly rather than weekly – are Victor Smith Court in Bricket Wood, The Beeches in Park Street, Vaughan Mead and Woollams in Redbourn, a number of stops in St Albans including Marlborough Buildings and Prae Wood and stops in Colney Heath, Harpenden, Wheathampstead and How Wood.
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But the county council is proposing to axe some other stops including Common Lane and Noke Shot in Batford, Partridge Road Community Centre in New Greens, Gertrude Peake Place in Redbourn and Mereden Court and Betty Entwhistle House in St Albans – although a few will have some kind of alternative facilities put in place.
Opening hours at all the district’s static libraries will be cut with the main St Albans library going down from 65 hours of opening to 51, Harpenden being cut to 37 hours from 56 and Marshalswick being reduced from 53 to 33.
Keith Emsall, the county’s executive member for community safety and culture, said: “While many councils are planning to close branches completely, we consider that it is very important for our residents to be able to access a library.
“That’s why no Hertfordshire branch library will shut down and we have staggered the new timetable so that when your local library isn’t open, a nearby branch will be.”
He added: “It hasn’t been possible to maintain our fleet of mobile libraries at current levels but they will continue to offer a service to isolated and vulnerable users.”
Once fully implemented, changes to library opening hours will save �1.4 million annually and the reduced mobile library service will save �275,000 a year.