I am passionate about our library service and believe it has a vital and important role to play in improving the lives of our residents and in helping to level up the county.
Libraries need to be at the heart of our communities. Great libraries are welcoming and inviting, they provide spaces for people to study, to learn, to attend creative clubs, to meet authors, and to play. They offer a wide range of books, e-books, graphic novels and podcasts. They support people who are seeking work by providing IT facilities and through running volunteering schemes which enable them to develop their skills and enhance their CVs.
Libraries are places where you can learn about your local area and research your family history. Young children can prepare for attending school, students can find a place to study and residents can access lifelong learning opportunities, and our well-trained and experienced staff help you access the services you need.
This is my vision for Essex Libraries.
We do much of this already, but this plan will enable us to do even more, and do it better.
Essex is fortunate to have one of the largest library services in the country, with 74 libraries, a home library service and a fleet of mobile libraries. Due to our wide reach, we can connect to and support every community across the county and enhance their lives. Underpinning this is our commitment to keep all our Libraries open as we drive forward our ambitious programme and deliver high quality services across all our locations.
Our libraries are a lifeline for many people and we will look at how to deliver the library service in different ways, as well as how we make the most of under-used space in our buildings and facilities across the county. We will design a service we can be truly proud of. One that is modern, vibrant, and sustainable. One that can improve life for everyone in Essex.
Through talking to residents and partners, it is clear that my passion for libraries is shared. People see libraries as a hub for communities to come together and interact, a vital resource for helping residents improve their literacy, and a place to learn new skills.
Following consultation feedback, this plan emphasises further our ambition to ensure our stock remains up to date and appealing to both existing and new users. It looks at how we can better localise our communications about local library events and clubs, and what we can do to reach more people where they live, study or work. Feedback showed that people understand why charges might be needed for some new facilities, and this plan shows how that might work alongside and complement existing and new free activities.
This plan describes the areas that we will be working on over the next four years:
- Library service and literacy
- Communications and infrastructure
- Supporting our communities and levelling up
We will be developing budgets to support this plan. We will be exploring ways we can work together with other organisations with similar aims. And most importantly, we will engage with our users and the wider community to develop further the services on offer.
Councillor Louise McKinlay
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community, Equality, Partnerships and Performance
"Literacy sits at the heart of the levelling up agenda. Improving literacy will improve the opportunities of individuals and communities. It is great to see Essex committing to these priorities and placing libraries at the heart of their strategy. Libraries are lifelong centres of literacy, creating reading communities and of vital importance to the one in 11 children from our most vulnerable communities who don’t own a single book. With their commitment to literacy, Essex Libraries are showing themselves to be community activists and national leaders." - Jonathan Douglas CBE, Hon FRSL, Chief Executive, National Literacy Trust