Unless another organisation, be it Ludlow Town Council, a private concern or a community group agree by September to take over the running of Ludlow Library, it is liable to complete closure from April 2017.
Shropshire Council is being typically close-lipped on the details, to the extent of forbidding its employees from discussing it or disclosing any details to the public. Another example of the cult of secrecy so loved by the council.
A few figures. Ludlow Library has 3,788 registered members who have borrowed material in the last year, including 516 children under 16. It has lent out 79,000 books. There were 94,346 visitors to the library to use its range of services, which go far beyond simply lending books.
If the library is run by another body – the town council being the least worse option – how will it be financed, or staffed? What happens to the experienced and dedicated library staff, whose depth of knowledge and skills cannot be replaced by volunteers, however willing? Will there be funds for the purchase of new stock – books, DVDs and other items? Will the inter-library loans service, which enables books to be borrowed from libraries anywhere in the country, be continued? What will happen to range of activities for young people – story events, talks, the flourishing Young Writers' Group? The numerous events held for adults? We will lose one of Ludlow's vital cultural, recreational and educational resources.
Whilst recognising that Ludlow Town Council faces its own severe financial problems, I would urge that it addresses the question of the future of the library as a matter of urgency and that an open meeting should be held to explain the implications and to consider solutions.
As someone who worked as a librarian in a large urban library authority for over 30 years, and experienced a number of similar situations, I can assure everyone that when library provision or resources are removed, they are never restored. What we lose now, we will lose for ever.
John Barratt, Ludlow