Library bosses in Northamptonshire reject criticism of public donation scheme

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Library bosses have hit back at criticism of a “library guardians” scheme that asked the public to make donations to the county’s library service,

The scheme, set up by Northamptonshire County Council, asked the public to make donations so that it could “continue to thrive and develop an increasingly wide range of community services”.

The move was criticised by the leader of the Labour, Councillor John McGhee, Labour councillor Danielle Stone and the author, Alan Moore, as an indication that the service was underfunded. The Chron ran a leader column praising the work of library staff but highlighting that the public was increasingly being asked to pay twice to maintain the same level of services.

The council has hit back saying the scheme did not demonstrate a cut to the service that it was “another example of the constant work in the county to make sure libraries are hubs at the very heart of our communities”.

A spokesman said the council’s chief executive, Dr Paul Blantern, had been chosen to head up a national task force as a result of the county’s approach to “protecting frontline library services from national budget reductions”.

Councillor Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, told the Chronicle & Echo on Wednesday that there was not the same amount of money being given to local services as there was five years ago. He said the guardians scheme was trying “to make sure the libraries stay open and vibrant”.

In a further statement issued yesterday afternoon, Councillor Brown said: “Our charity scheme for libraries – far from being a threat to public libraries – is actually a vital tool in helping us to protect them from front line service reductions.

“We see our library services as absolutely critical in delivering not only traditional library services but also a whole host of other front line offerings such as some elements of children centre services and business start up advice.

“Our commitment to libraries is clearly shown that while other counties have seen closures and reduced hours, here in Northamptonshire not one library has closed, opening hours have increased and Sunday opening has been reintroduced.

“Our LibraryPlus Trust is a response to the economic realities we face and securing more voluntary income for such a treasured service. It is a similar model to that pursued in such wonderful world renowned libraries as New York Public Library – surely no-one would suggest that is an affront to library services.

“We should be proud of our county’s wonderful libraries and the services they offer and be thankful of all those who have showed willing to pay voluntary donations to help the libraries provide more enhanced services for the communities they serve.”