Letter: Library is vital to literacy levels

Friends of Werrington Library, with Carole Dudley (R), at a library protest in 2013
Friends of Werrington Library, with Carole Dudley (R), at a library protest in 2013

Whilst fully appreciating the pressure on spending that the council and Vivacity are under we find it difficult to accept the drastic proposals that are being made for the libraries in general and in particular those affecting the Werrington Community Library.

Levels of literacy in the country are falling and Peterborough is no exception.

At the same time we are cutting an area that is trying to help to stem this decline, namely the effectiveness of the local libraries.

The difficulty with this latest proposal is that, on the face of it, the news is good for library users, however when you dig into it you realise that to be far from the case.

Firstly, there is the claim that the libraries are to open longer, for which there can be no dispute, however the actual hours in which they will be staffed will be dramatically reduced.

So, almost anything that requires a member of the library staff to be present will suffer, and there are a lot of such events.

The proposal is to reduce the hours during which the Werrington Community Library will be staffed, down from the current 29 hours a week to a proposed 16 hours, a reduction of 44percent from current levels (it is also worth noting that the current 29 hours was itself a reduction from 44.5 hours in 2011).

Many of the activities that have been built up to try to improve the effectiveness of the Werrington Community Library, especially those involving pre-school and school age groups, will be severely impacted by this reduction in staffed hours.

Surely not something we should be doing if we truly believe in improving literacy etc. from its current lowly position?

At the same time as reducing staffed hours it is being proposed to add extra unmanned hours during which time the Werrington Community Library will be open, but only to people over the age of 16 years and with a previously approved pass!

Surely again, not the way to encourage either the younger generation to improve their Literacy skills or to get new users of the Library?

Finally I would like to conclude with a few significant, specific concerns that we at FOWL have with this proposal:

1. With staffed hours being insufficient to enable many of the current activities within the Werrington Community Library to continue, we believe there is an assumption that volunteers will fill the gap.

Having discussed this with some current volunteers we believe this is a flawed assumption due to a number of issues, most significant of which are those involving personal safety, security and responsibility when working in an unmanned environment.

2. The exclusion of under 16 year olds and anyone else who does not have a pass when the library is unmanned

3.The safety and security of the members of the public in an unmanned Werrington Community Library

4. The security of the Werrington Community Library itself during unmanned hours

Werrington Community Library has approximately 7,000 people going through its doors every month and it is too important to the community to allow it to be emasculated in the way that is being suggested.

It is FOWL’s recommendation to the electorate that they reject the proposals contained in the survey currently being undertaken by the council/Vivacity on the future of the libraries and that they demand that the policy be reviewed.

Peterborough City Council and Vivacity, please rethink your approach.

Carole Dudley

Chair of Friends of Werrington Library (FOWL)