Councillor Jocelynne Scutt, Labour's County Councillor for Arbury, has said that plans to commercialise libraries run the risk of creating a 'two tier' service for residents and marginalising low income and vulnerable residents.
Speaking ahead of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee today (13 February) where plans for the Library service will be debated, Councillor Scutt said: "Our library services are, and must remain, trusted spaces open to all where anyone can explore and share reading, information, knowledge and culture. The plans being put forward where some users will pay for 'premier membership' and charging for internet access or for author led book readings will create a 'two tier' structure which is fundamentally against the purpose and vision of libraries of community spaces enriching the lives of all those who use them.
The Conservative-led County Council has just agreed an increase in council tax, a cost also borne by many low-income residents, so adding extra charges for using libraries is a double charge on the least-well off. It should be using the additional revenue generated to protect this service as free and open to all."
Councillor Scutt was backed by Nicky Massey, a Cambridge resident who has written to all councillors on the committee highlighting her personal experiences and concerns. Mrs Massey said: "I am appalled at the proposal to charge for internet access in libraries. Those that use the library computers often do so because they don't have the facility at home, or because it is their safe place. These proposals will marginalise further those on low incomes or pay as you go contracts who need to access the internet not just for filling in government forms but to search for jobs or answer emails.
As a child I was bulled, especially in first year senior school, and I would use the school library and later on the public library as a safe haven from the bullies, escaping from threats of violence. Vulnerable children use the computers to find help and support on matters that they feel they can not bring home perhaps. I hope that the committee will recognise these concerns and reject this proposal."