More time needed for decision on future of Wrexham’s mobile library
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
More time is needed before a decision can be made on plans to axe Wrexham’s mobile library van, councillors have decided.
It follows concerns that getting rid of the travelling library would have a negative impact on rural communities.
Wrexham Council previously revealed proposals to replace the library van with a new “pop-up” service, where temporary libraries would be set up at venues across the area.
The alternative model has already been tested in a number of locations after the mobile library service was paused because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was brought in alongside another service allowing people to order books to be delivered directly to their homes.
The local authority said it hoped making the changes permanent would reduce its carbon footprint.
However, community leaders expressed major reservations over the loss of the service, which was described as a “lifeline” for some residents.
Speaking at a meeting held on Thursday, Llay councillor Bryan Apsley read an e-mail sent to him one library user who was worried about the plans.
He said: “This person is an 87-year-old and an avid library user and they say that books are a source of great pleasure and fill the vacant space in their life.
“They say if there’s any attempt to discontinue the mobile library service, they and many others would be devastated.
“They finish off by saying Wales would be a lesser country without this service.”
A total of 178 people recently took part in a consultation into the plans, with around 58 per cent stating they would like to make use of the pop-up service.
But 69 respondents said they were not interested, with most who replied coming from areas with no branch library.
Rebeccah Lowry, the council’s regeneration service manager, said the existing mobile van was 17-years-old and in need of replacement.
She said: “There’s certainly a need to review that vehicle, its carbon footprint, its longevity and the opportunities that the Covid pandemic has presented us with a different way to deliver the service.
“This has resulted in this being the proposal going forward to executive board, with the intention being that we’ll reach more communities in a carbon neutral way.”
Before the pandemic, the mobile library visited dozens of Wrexham communities on a three-week rota.
Although officials said the new “cleaner, greener service” would cut down on mileage, members of the authority’s customers, performance, resources and governance scrutiny committee were dubious about the proposals.
Cllr Mike Morris said some communities had no venues which could be used to host a pop-up library. The Holt representative said: “I’m not overly convinced it’s the best way forward to give the people exactly what they want and the service that they require.
“We all know change is inevitable but we are moving too quickly on an item that really is a very small for the county to provide, and one that’s particularly valued in the rural and quieter areas.”
Meanwhile, Whitegate councillor Brian Cameron said getting rid of the mobile library would result in the loss of opportunities for residents to socialise.
He said: “I am concerned about doing away with the mobile library, and I’ll tell you why. With the pop-up library, it doesn’t give our most vulnerable people the opportunity to come together.
“In some areas of Caia Park, the mobile library will come and they’ll join it up with a coffee morning in one of the community centres, which brings people out to have a coffee or a cup of tea and a chat.”
Council leader Mark Pritchard also spoke at the meeting to express his concerns about the plans. He said: “I think you need more time before you take this forward and I would suggest a couple of workshops, so you can get your teeth into it to understand it in more detail.
“Whatever you do with library services, it affects and has an impact on all of our communities and we need to get it right. Speaking in my capacity as the chairman of the executive board, I would be uncomfortable with making a decision after listening to what’s been said today.”
Councillors agreed at the end of the debate that more meetings should be held to examine the impact before a decision is made on the future of the mobile library.
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