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OPINION: Closure of Waterbeach library would devastate community

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Anyone with the basic knowledge of the need for our population to be educated, especially children being able to read, write and articulate within life, doubts the benefits libraries provide for children and the community as a whole.

They only have to refer to the variety of research by the Reading Agency and many esteemed organisations addressing the welfare of children.

At Waterbeach Community Library we are dedicated to engaging children in the Reading Challenge, and to providing books for the individual child and adult to enjoy throughout the year.

This year we have 165 children registered on the Summer Reading Challenge which is quite something for a small library.

The library receives compliments constantly from parents/carers/guardians and is highly valued by the community.

Maggie Crane: “Waterbeach Community Library serves the community, is run by volunteers from the community, and addresses the needs of the community. The residents of Waterbeach are not prepared to lose their library”

Maggie Crane: “Waterbeach Community Library serves the community, is run by volunteers from the community, and addresses the needs of the community. The residents of Waterbeach are not prepared to lose their library”

The library is a very successful library, with 1500+ members in Waterbeach and the surrounding area, 700+ of which are children who enjoy visiting the library and choosing from the 11,000+ available books.

We cater for all ages and organise book deliveries to those who are house bound.

However, despite this success the community has been devastated recently by an event – namely the issuing of a Notice to Quit by 2024 from the Community School.

Given the crisis in reading skills in children at this time, this decision appears to be highly questionable, and extremely ill considered.

The community is mystified as to why a school would not want a successful library on their site, one which serves the children throughout the year, and provides books for school projects, encouraging children to read, even those who are still to discover the delights of the written word.

The library has been in Waterbeach for some 101 years, one of the first of the 63 libraries created in 1922 due to a grant from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust and located on the school site for some 51 years.

The library is entirely run by volunteers, with minimum expense to the taxpayers of Cambridgeshire, even refurbishments have been carried out by the volunteers to ensure the community can enjoy a pleasant environment.

The devastation caused to the community cannot be assessed, and these feelings have not been allayed in any way by the local MP, county, district, or parish councillors, as despite advising same of the situation they have not responded in any manner, nor indicated any alternative plans for the community to retain this well respected and vital facility within the Waterbeach community.

Having allowed sufficient time for responses from those indicated above, the community have now agreed to hold a meeting on Monday 2nd October 2023, in the Waterbeach Baptist Chapel, at 7.30pm to allow library members and those concerned regarding this situation to voice their concerns.

There will also be a petition which will be available to be signed at the meeting, and copies will be placed in a number of stores and meeting areas in the community.

It is an interesting factor that we only learned about the decision due to an individual being prepared to break the unnecessary code of secrecy imposed by the parish council, school, and county.

We initially enquired as to the reason for this decision, after some time we were informed this was due to a Fire Risk Assessment resulting in the decision the library needed to be “demolished” by 2025.

We requested a copy of the FRA which we were entitled to as we are using the building.

After some considerable time, we were presented with one sheet out of 23 pages which actually stated the building should be “replaced or removed”.

Seemingly at no time has there been any discussion as to replacing the building with a new sectional building which, given it would be a community building, could be purchased with the considerable amount of S106 monies the parish council have available to spend on community projects, therefore a new building at no cost to the school.

Alternatively, there is a building in the heart of the community which could be rented/leased/purchased which could be utilised as a library with the installation of a lift, but also provide a community centre suitable for a variety of activities.

Neither of the above opportunities have been discussed/considered with the library volunteers – all taxpayers – by the parish, district, county council or MP.

As the school has stated they do not even have the finances to remove/demolish the building, it makes the scenario even more unbelievable.

These monies are available due to the considerable numbers of homes being built both in Waterbeach and at the Newtown development.

ose involved in taking this decision have ignored any approaches since, even to the point of parish councillors being informed they cannot discuss the matter as the chair has deemed it “confidential”.

Seemingly the concerns of the resident taxpayers are of little significance to those individuals who claim to represent the electorate.

On a regular basis we are advised how much the library members value the library with children sitting reading books, members asking various questions, seeking new interests and advice on suitable subjects.

To lose this facility would be yet another loss to a community already deprived of its name, its facilities, and its existence due to the decisions made by those who they had trusted with their vote.

Waterbeach Community Library serves the community, is run by volunteers from the community, and addresses the needs of the community.

The residents of Waterbeach are not prepared to lose their library.

They require a community library located within their community and refuse to be ignored any longer.

We would be most appreciative if there is any way you could assist us in this situation.

 

Maggie Crane is co-ordinator of Waterbeach Library

 

 

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