HUNDREDS of schoolchildren signed Christmas cards for their local librarian to show them how valued trained staff are to communities.

Members of Save Our Libraries Essex (Sole) organised and presented the cards during special Love Your Librarian days at Wivenhoe and Galleywood facilities on Saturday.

More than 700 children from three different schools in Wivenhoe, and St Michael's Junior School in Galleywood, contributed to the homemade cards, writing personalised messages.

The campaign group organised the event to show how essential paid staff are to the future of libraries across the county.

Earlier this year Essex County Council announced a rethink of its Future Libraries Strategy which meant the dozens of facilities at risk were saved from closure for at least five-years.

However community groups are in discussions to take over some libraries, which campaigners have labelled "closure by stealth".

A spokesman for Sole said: "Love Your Librarian is being held to emphasise how a library is not a library without paid professional staff present.

"While volunteers do a wonderful job in supporting paid staff, we need professional paid library staff present at all times because library staff are - experienced, trained, safe, objective, multi-skilled, reliable and accountable.

"Essex County Council want to hand our libraries over to volunteers - this is unsustainable, and it undermines and de-professionalises an essential service, already paid for by Essex residents, and which we have a right to by law."

Earlier this month members of Sole leafleted outside private meetings between County Hall and groups who have put in expressions of interest to run libraries

The spokesman continued: "While Essex County Council has promised to keep all libraries open, the council is still working hard, secretly, to get community groups or other organisations to take over our libraries.

"Meetings are being held away from library staff. We call on all groups to withdraw offers of taking over our libraries.

"The people of Essex do not want these takeovers because they love their libraries and they love their librarians."

The Love Your Librarian events took place on the same day as Essex County Council's official Love Your Library Day.