With the threat of a library closure in the air, feelings of both anger and frustration against the county council plans are mounting. Town councillors heard last week that Somerset would potentially offer just £5,000 a year towards the £78,000 annual cost of running Wellington library.
Even though the consultation on the library has a month still to run, some councillors feel that the axe is set to fall. “It seems like a fait accompli and I don’t really see why we are being taunted with the option of it staying open,” said Cllr Ben Shepherd.
“The two possible options seem so different,” argued Cllr Andy Govier. “Either nothing changes or we take it over with an inadequate £5k contribution. There ought to be a range of options. Strangely there doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of protest as there has been in Wivey. We should fight to retain the existing library and then look at a different sort of future arrangement.”
Meanwhile, the Friends Of Wellington Library group are meeting with town councillors to discuss possible ways forward but are adamant that they cannot possibly take on the library.
The Friends are clear that they cannot run the library. “We can’t as a small group of volunteers take it,” said FWL chair Hilda Thornton. “We don’t have the resources to take on the financial and legal responsibilities of running a town library.
“We’ve fought quite hard recently in Somerset to keep our libraries and it’s our aim to keep doing that. There’s a tremendous amount of support for the library in the town.”
“We feel very strongly that it is the county council’s responsibility to maintain a library service.” In fact the law makes it clear the county councils have that obligation but the statute does not spell out how that should be done.
Since 2010, at least 478 libraries have closed in Britain, the number of books held by surviving libraries has dropped by 14m, and librarian numbers have been cut by around 8,000. Loans of books have dropped by a quarter, and spending on libraries by councils fell by £66m in 2016-17 alone.
Councillors urge everyone with an interest in retaining Wellington’s library to access the SCC online questionnaire (click here) and express their support for keeping it open. The Somerset library service has made it clear that the number of positive responses will be a factor in its decision.