Letter from Andy Panayiotou on behalf of Aylesbury Vale Green Party

3 December 2017

In defence of mobile libraries

As a resident of Aylesbury town I was pleased to see news of the planned investment in the town centre library. However, my enthusiasm for the proposals is somewhat dampened after reading about the proposal to end the mobile library service across the county. Comparing the cost of the Aylesbury Library refurbishment with the £500,000 savings that are apparently needed, it seems to me that mobile library users will be paying for the town centre library through the loss of their service.

Moreover, as someone who has worked in the library sector for the past 15 years, I find it disheartening to see the Council using an infographic as part of its mobile library service consultation that at best gives an incomplete picture of the value of the service, and at worst seems intended to prejudice opinion against it. (Compare this to the data published by Essex County Council in September 2017 as part of its mobile library service consultation[1].) The number of people that use the service – however many that really is – does not alone articulate the value of our mobile library service in the delivery of good social outcomes, such as literacy, learning, health and wellbeing.

We all need to remember that they're our libraries and whilst we may not use them personally, like hospitals perhaps, there will perhaps come a time in our lives when they provide us with a lifeline. In retirement, for example, what will many of us do with our free time? It might seem trivial to us until we meet someone whose quality of life depends on the service.

Mobile libraries cater for the elderly, children, disabled, and those living in rural and remote areas especially those without access to public or private transport. They are a cost effective way of delivering a service in communities where it would be cost prohibitive to keep a branch library open, and they also offer unique benefits due to their transience, which makes their arrival something of an event. I suggest that Bucks takes some inspiration from Hillingdon, who recently commissioned a new mobile library[2], which even offers free Wi-Fi on-board.

I hope that users of the service will take time to complete the consultation at https://www.buckscc.gov.uk/services/libraries/mobile-library-service-consultation/

or use one of the paper forms that are available in branch.