A DEMONSTRATION was held outside Colchester Town Hall to protest against plans to close 24 libraries.

The demonstration was organised by the Colchester branch of the Save Our Libraries Essex (SOLE) campaign and was staged outside Colchester Town Hall before Colchester Council’s Cabinet meeting.

Campaigners also attended the meeting to ask cabinet members to protect libraries from the cuts and closures which have been proposed by Essex County Council.

Under the plans, Prettygate Library is one of 24 of Essex’s 74 libraries which are set to close completely.

Stanway, Wivenhoe, Mersea, and Tiptree are among a further 19 which would lose their premises, paid staff, book stock and access to the Essex library network.

Colchester councillors from across the political spectrum voted unanimously to support a motion asking for the continued use of libraries, when it was debated at a full council meeting.

Colchester’s Conservative MP Will Quince has also asked his Tory colleagues at County Hall to reconsider closing Prettygate library, and consider adding a coffee shop.

Katy Vargas, spokeswoman for Colchester SOLE, said: “Clearly our libraries are integral to the wellbeing of residents, whether it’s providing mental stimulation and a refuge from loneliness, a quiet place to study for young people, or somewhere to get out of the cold for those who have nowhere else to go.”

Campaigners have also pointed out the county council’s lack of investment in libraries.

Susan Barker, county councillor responsible for customers, said: “The way people access books has changed and now only one in six Essex residents have used their library card in the past year.

“Spend on stock for our libraries is driven by demand to ensure efficiency. Stock selection is based on reader choice, requests for books from customers and national trends.

“Some years we have actually increased spend on stock. In those years where spend has fallen, this is due to large reductions in the number of loans. Technology has also transformed how people read books and access information.

“We want to create a library service with a wider appeal, which is more relevant to people’s lives – one which is online 24-7, is faster, and offers users more choice.”

Views are being taken until February 20 and the council will make a decision in the summer. Visit www.essex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation or call 0345 603 7639.