We’ve said before how much we value the mobile library service. For the elderly, the disabled and those with no transport who live in outlying areas, going to a central library in a town or city is not an option. The only way they can use the service is if it comes to them.
So we have to be concerned at how Hampshire County Council, in a search for savings, has cut the number of mobile library stops from 2,400 to just 361 per month.
Many stops have lost out because new rules mean the vehicles will not call at any places within two miles of a static library.
The figure of 361 could have ended up even lower had it not been for a campaign mounted by users, who responded to a council consultation by making it clear that mobile libraries were very important to them.
We recognise that local authorities are having to slash budgets, but this is such a vital service. Books inform, educate and entertain, while the mobile libraries perform an extremely useful social function for those who are housebound or who may lead an otherwise isolated life.
But now that the axe has fallen, the onus is on people to take advantage of the service and prove to the county’s decision-makers that it is worth keeping.
Put simply, it means use it or lose it.
Because if a 12-month trial comes to an end and the user numbers don’t add up, then the council has already warned that further cutbacks could happen.
It has set targets, saying that from July the mobile libraries will call at some places for 20 minutes, while longer stops will last two to three hours.
Shorter stops must attract 10 customers per stop and longer ones 50 customers, or be pulled from the route.
So we urge all those who live in areas still served by mobile libraries to get out there and demonstrate their worth.
And we set the county council a challenge.
If in a year’s time user numbers have gone up, will it consider extending the service (a service, let’s not forget, funded by Hampshire’s taxpayers)?