Rural communities 'left in dark' over new mobile library service
CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed the relaunch of the county's library service this week.
But they stressed they had been left in the dark over the changes made by Gloucestershire County Council.
The service now makes 56 stops across the county, each receiving four weekly visits.
But just two years ago the entire service was on the brink of being axed.
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Campaigners from Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries welcomed the reprieve, despite their fears.
Johanna Anderson, from the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, said: "We have grave concerns about the new service and the failure to inform users of the changes before it withdrew the old service.
"But we are pleased that the county council has not pursued its former plans to axe the mobile library service, which was ruled as unlawful by a High Court judge in November 2011."
But the council insisted the new service was "comprehensive and flexible".
Council leader Councillor Mark Hawthorne said: "With our network of static libraries, virtual library and the mobile service, we feel that we have a comprehensive and flexible package of services for everyone.
"Libraries are often seen as the front door to other council services and those of our partner agencies in Gloucestershire, and this important function should not be forgotten.
"The value of these mobile libraries has already been made clear to us – it's great to see such positive feedback from residents."
The council ran a consultation exercise to get the views of the mobile library's users.
It said that in some cases where customers would be unable to use the nearest new mobile stop or static library, arrangements have been made to provide them with suitable alternatives.
These include a housebound service, transport to a library club or help to use the 'virtual library'.
Council officers hoped that library users would start to make the switch to electronic books. In a bid to encourage people to make the move from paper to electronic books, or e-books as they are known, it is hosting a competition next month for mobile library users.
One mobile customer who has visited one of the new mobile stops since the service started on December 11 will win a Google Nexus tablet, which can be used to download electronic books or electronic audio books.