SOLE March for Libraries

ESSEX CAMPAIGNERS will finish SIXTY MILES MARCH FOR LIBRARIES THIS SATURDAY. The socially distanced Essex March for Libraries, protesting against what campaigners call a ‘closure plan by stealth’, began at Manningtree Library on Saturday 22nd August and will finish a little over sixty miles and one week later (Saturday 29th) at County Hall in Chelmsford.
On the first day it reached Brightlingsea Library at about 5pm. The first weekend’s campaigning culminated with a rally outside Wivenhoe Library at 2pm on the Sunday, with the next leg leaving Brightlingsea Library before going onto Colchester Library. Library users from Mersea Library joined the marchers from Brightlingsea via the ferry across from Mersea. 
The march continued via Prettygate, Stanway, Tiptree, Kelveldon, Coggeshall, Silver End, Witham, Hatfield Peverel, and Broomfield libraries, before marching on County Hall on Saturday 29th August.

Library users from across Essex will gather for the short final leg outside the Saracen’s Head at the top of Chelmsford’s High Street at 3pm before processing to County Hall. In addition the final day will also see two feeder marches, one from Great Wakering, and another from Hullbridge via Hockley, which will meet in Rochford before taking the train onto Chelmsford to join the other protesters.The full route and timings will be found here. A book ‘baton’ is being carried throughout from Manningtree to Chelmsford. The book chosen, which has been withdrawn from Manningtree Library, is Michael Rosen’s work We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen has been one of a number celebrity supporters attracted by SOLE, others included David Baddiel and Tracey Beaker author Jacqueline Wilson. 
‘Last year there was a fantastic victory for people power, when thousands protested across the county and prevented the closure of a third of Essex’s libraries’, said a SOLE spokesperson. ‘However, many of our libraries,in particular the satellite libraries, remain in grave danger.’
‘Plans to sell off the buildings for the satellite libraries, get rid of the professional librarians, and have them housed – perhaps even from inside a pub as was suggested by one councillor –  and run by volunteers is a closure plan by stealth. People power won a vital victory last year, and it needs to so again to stop this act of cultural vandalism.’
‘Let’s be clear, Essex County Council set our libraries up to fail with years of cuts and under investment. In the last ten ten years the book stock has been cut by nearly half a million titles. Opening hours have been slashed. If a book shop owner cut stock and opening hours their business would struggle. Essex County Council needs to reverse these cuts by extending opening hours and investing, and scrapping its closure plan by stealth. Hands off our libraries!’

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