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LettersWebBOOK A FUTURE FOR DEDDINGTON LIBRARY

And the Result is …

Well, not what we hoped for at the beginning of the process, but better than it might have been.

What we do get …

is that the library building – the Old Court House by the traffic lights at the top of the High Street – is saved for Deddington. This could otherwise have been a tad embarrassing now that the Police, in a bid to be more accessible to the community at large, have moved in. The pic on the right shows Library Manager, Stella O'Neill, presenting a framed copy of the Tolkien letters to Sgt Richard Miller on 14 December (see below for the full story of the Tolkien letters).

We still get to use OCC’s book stock and the library stock management system. And we are promised that self-service equipment, wi-fi networks and e-books will be introduced to encourage more people to use the council's services.

And what we don’t …

are full-time OCC library staff. Instead we are one of the 16 ‘Community’ libraries which will have an equal mix of county council-paid staff and volunteers. Another 22 ‘Core’ libraries will remain fully staffed by council employees to meet the council’s statutory requirement to provide a comprehensive and efficient network; and a further five ‘Community Plus’ libraries will have two-thirds council-paid staff and one-third volunteers. These are mainly situated in towns rather than villages.

The plan for Oxfordshire libraries

the result of a four-month public consultation which attracted nearly 5,000 responses, it would see all libraries remain open with the help of fewer volunteers than previously proposed in the May 2011 document.

The OCC’s view: ‘We have come up with a model which would still see all 43 libraries remain open and it would be up to the community in some areas to come forward and assist in the future with staffing. We are certainly a million miles away from where we were 12 months ago when we were proposing to cease funding 20 libraries. It was clear from the consultation feedback that there is a big appetite in our communities to keep libraries open and I am confident that people would come forward and volunteer to help achieve this. Unfortunately we in Oxfordshire, like all areas of the country, are faced with having to make significant financial cutbacks across almost all areas of the services that we provide. It is impossible to exempt the Library Service from this.’

And – but don’t hold your breath – Councillor Judith Heathcoat, overseeing the plans, said continuing to fund all 43 Oxfordshire libraries left ‘wriggle room’ in the future: ‘Should the economic situation change, then the financial support given by the county council could be reviewed.’

And for Deddington …

So what this means for us is that the Friends of Deddington Library will be actively working on the next stage of organising training for the volunteers who have already stepped forward. If anyone else is interested in joining them, please call in at the Library.

On Wednesday 14 December, the Police moved into their new home in the Old Court House. And to mark the occasion they were presented with framed archival copies of the letters written by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, when he gave the address at the opening of the library 55 years ago in December 1956. The original letters were lent to OCC Museum Service in 2000 for an exhibition in Oxford of the Inklings, a group of literary enthusiasts who encouraged the writing of fantasy. It was thought they were lost but have recently been returned and are now in their new home, watched over by no less a body than the Thames Valley Police.

History of the Campaign

In early 2011 Deddington Library was threatened with closure. Oxfordshire County Council, faced with huge budget cuts, had decided that funding for 20 of the council’s 43 libraries would be withdrawn. The proposals would affect 20 of the county council's 43 libraries. Including Deddington. The council hoped that, instead, local communities would come up with ‘innovative ideas to run their local libraries’.

Following a packed public meeting on 15 Febru­ary, the Parish Council voted unanimously to fight OCC over the proposal and the ‘Save Deddington Library’ campaign group was formed.

To see the initial campaign, click here.

Publication of the consultation document was postponed while OCC went back to the drawing board. Confronted with financial, legal and moral challenges from all sides they eventually tore up the initial plan and published their consultation document on 27 May. A second public meeting was held on 12 July to discuss a response to the consultation paper.

To see the OCC press release and the consultation document, click here, and to see the campaign group's response, click here.

The library was opened in December 1956 by the author of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien; to see the Tolkien letters about the occasion, click here. 

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