The following message has been received by Shirley Burnham, from Mike Chaney of Puddletown, with permission for it to be shared. He writes with regard to an article reporting the brilliant offer at Dorchester’s Library and Learning Centre – a co-located space, placing the library in a building alongside other services such as work club, Citizens Advice Bureau and Older People programmes amongst other things.

I saw the  Dorset Echo’s  puff for our new library (into which, I regret to tell you, I have yet to set my foot). It is a matter of some bitterness hereabouts as it was bought at the cost of nine little rural branch libraries, eight of which have had to survive only with volunteers: the other was lost. We fear there will be more such ‘pistols-to-the-head’ deals in the months to come.

The county is paying its share to the tune of some hundreds of thousands a year (figures plucked from my failing memory) out of the same fund that it tightened so drastically last year  –  with consequential loss of the nine rural libraries. And not paying with capital money either, but with revenue. It is not surprising that there is ill feeling.

It is a matter for some soul-searching among the volunteers, whose hard work encourages councillors to visit the ‘privilege’ of community status on yet more villages…so that they can save yet more money to spend on other things: vanity projects like new buildings.


The Library Campaign are happy to highlight this correspondence and in so doing hope to open up discussions on the subject.

We post links to news articles collated by Shirley Burnham.  Often the real story lies in the comments left on posts.

This email from Mike highlights many key issues that we hear of regularly – cuts to branches to preserve larger centres, co-location of services, the ‘privilege’ of volunteering in an attempt to protect much loved and used branch library services and questions relating to council spending.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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One Reply to “The spin behind the council’s message on libraries exposed”

  1. As Chair of one of the community-run Dorset libraries of which Mike Chaney writes, I think it is fortunate that reading about the splendid new library in Dorchester did not immediately result in my demise from apoplexy.

    Good for Dorchester that its residents were completely ignored when over 90% of them said they were satisfied with the library they already had? Good for smaller communities when they were told they could have the splendid opportunity of funding and staffing their libraries or have them close altogether? Good for those community-run libraries that they get no financial support whatsoever from Dorset County Council? Good for staff who were made redundant?

    And we have a dilemma. We have to make our community libraries financially and socially successful or they will be wiped out of existence altogether but, if we do, this will give DCC the excuse to close down even more of the smaller libraries.

    Yes, it seems all, too likely that more of our smaller communities, reprieved during that last round of cuts, may soon experience what joy it is to fill that volunteer rota for every opening hour, to fundraise constantly, to battle bureaucracy, to apply for grants, to organise social and educational activities….and those poor residents of Dorchester won’t have the chance to relish such delights.

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