Friends of Westgate library start a petition to keep it open
A NEW chapter in the fight against cuts to library services has begun in Westgate.
At Westgate and Westbrook Residents' Association (WWRA) meeting on Monday, Don Eacott announced the formation of the Friends Of Westgate Library and urged locals to sign a petition calling for the library to be kept open.
He said: "The library is vital to the educational, literary and social needs of the thriving and vibrant community of Westgate and its environs.
"It is in close proximity to five schools – a private prep school, an infant, a junior and two large secondary schools and it hosts several social activity groups ranging from toddlers to the retired. It has a learning resource centre and supplies reading matter for at least two book clubs.
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"Our library draws readers from other areas due to the ease of parking, which is beneficial to those of restricted mobility and others as a whole."
About 100 signatures were collected in the first two days of petitioning.
Mr Eacott had not known that KCC's consultation period, which will influence whether the knife falls on the premises, was due to start in a week.
In the wake of threats of closure, what has concerned Westgate library users is that, unlike their counterparts at Birchington, Broadstairs and Ramsgate there are no plans for self-service training at Westgate.
It comes at a particularly poignant time for the town, where celebrations are being mooted about how to celebrate the library's 50th birthday. An anniversary garden has already been planned by the gardening group.
A KCC spokesman would not confirm or deny if the axe will fall on Westgate's library, adding: "There is no direct correlation between not having self service training and closure. It is about usage and queuing and there is no need for queues at Westgate.
"We are conducting a lot of research about what residents want from their libraries. We are mapping services across the whole of Kent according to customer needs rather than sites. We need to ensure services are in the right place."
He went on to say that areas with high unemployment, for example, would have a high need for free computer usage to research career information and apply for jobs.
Mr Eacott, who has been in contact with KCC to try to determine future plans for Westgate library, said: "This all comes as a complete surprise to me. We had better make sure that everyone in Westgate visits the library in the next week and makes their opinion known."
KCC cabinet member responsible for libraries Mike Hill said: "We are carrying out extensive research into libraries to look at local people's needs and how libraries can help. This is part of an overall review of Kent County Council services and plans are still being put together.
"No decisions have yet been made on the structure of the service and a comprehensive consultation for people to give their views will be carried out before any firm decisions are made. We are carrying out our annual survey in libraries, asking customers about the service and we encourage people to complete the surveys."
Petition forms are available for signature at various Westgate shops and at WWRA headquarters and social club, at The Bakehouse in St Mildred's Road, behind Coral bookmakers and the Carlton Cinema.