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Thomas Aveling Library facing closure and staff at Grain Library may be replaced by volunteers

By Clare Freeman

One Medway library is facing closure with another set to be run by volunteers, as the council looks for ways to save £95,000 from the libraries’ budget.

A public consultation is underway into plans to close the Thomas Aveling Community Library in Rochester while the council is looking at the possibility of replacing paid staff with trained volunteers at Grain from July.

According to an email seen by the Medway Messenger, the closure of Thomas Aveling will save £35,800 and changes at Grain, £14,700.

Grain Library, Chapel Road, Grain
Grain Library, Chapel Road, Grain

The email said: “Our reluctant conclusion, and why Thomas Aveling was put forward as a budget reduction option, is that the low levels of usage do not make it cost effective to maintain the library in its current form.”

Thomas Aveling Community Library, which opened in 2006, is in a purpose built building at the back of Thomas Aveling School in Arethusa Road, and is shared between the school and the public.

Medway Council pays the school £6,500 a year in rent and staffing costs £29,600.

Members of the public can access the library 21 hours a week, between 3pm and 6pm on weekdays and from 10am until 4pm on Saturdays.

Last year, it issued the second least number of books - just 13,692 - compared to 4,665 at Grain (the least) and 150,165 at Gillingham (the most).

The majority of borrowers are pupils and the school will continue to have a library.

The proposal is to close the library and re-direct users to the community hubs in Chatham, Rochester and Strood, or provide a local stop for the mobile library.

The Thomas Aveling School, Arethusa Road, Rochester
The Thomas Aveling School, Arethusa Road, Rochester

In regards to Grain, the email said: “Grain is the least well used of all of Medway’s libraries but the council does not wish to withdraw from this community. Staff have made great effort with activities to increase usage but success has been limited.

“If we are successful with this approach it may enhance the opportunities for some residents and could even enable an increase in opening hours for the library.

“This is a challenging project as volunteers are hard to come by, but the library service has a track record of working with its friends and other volunteers.”

There are 16 libraries and community hubs across the Towns, as well as two mobile libraries, employing 140 staff.

The budget for 2016/2017 was £3m with the annual budget for books and resources set at £270,000.

According to the email, a further saving of £23,300 will be made by closing libraries at the same time as community hub services, and £20,500 from “general efficiencies”.

There will be no redundancies as staff will be able to pick up hours at other libraries.

The consultation on Thomas Aveling Community Library runs until 5pm on Thursday, June 15.

Visit www.medway.gov.uk/leisurecultureandsport/medwaylibraries

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