A COUNCILLOR has defended a tweet in which he claimed libraries are irrelevant.
Stroud town councillor Steve Dechan posted the comment: ‘Libraries have little relevance now’ earlier this month.
“I knew it would provoke a reaction,” he said.
“But unless libraries do something extraordinary, which some do, they will die.
Mr Dechan said he is looking to the future, when certain functions that libraries currently perform, such providing computer access and support, will become redundant.
“Libraries must keep evolving,” he said.
“In five to 10 years, digital illiteracy will all but be overcome.
“These days you can get e-books, e-magazines, e-audio, with your library card online, from home, which doesn’t justify the square footage libraries take up.”
The councillor said the service should be open for longer hours too.
“If I want to use the library today, for example, I finish work at 5.30pm to 6pm, and the library will be closed.”
Mr Dechan believes community engagement is the key to making libraries more viable.
“It would be great if they could become a community hub, open at the right times, with regular reading classes for kids, getting students in to read to children, regular book clubs, of all genres, from crime to romances.
“They could do all sorts of other community engagement too, and encourage community groups to use the space as an inexpensive place to meet up.
“We want to attract people into towns, and a library has a responsibility to do that, just the same as retailers and other service providers do, to make our town centres really vibrant.”
Cllr Dave Norman, GCC cabinet member for libraries, said: “We welcomed more than two million visitors to our libraries in Gloucestershire last year so I strongly disagree that libraries are irrelevant.
“Libraries promote culture and creativity as well as provide a vast collection of books for communities to enjoy free of charge.
“Gloucestershire’s libraries have also moved with the times, offering many other invaluable services such as providing advice for small and start up businesses to encourage economic development.
“Our Innovation Lab at Coleford Library provides support, workshops and access to equipment for businesses, schoolchildren and residents.
“Stroud Library is home to the county council’s drop-in service providing support to people with disabilities.
“Gloucester Library provides an identity checking service so the public can obtain a visa or EU settlement.
“Each year hundreds of children take part in the libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge to continue their levels of reading during the school holidays.
“The wide range of services and activities available at our libraries shows they are highly relevant and remain an essential part of our communities.”