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Queen responds to mobile library campaigner

Tuesday, 24 October 2023 08:19

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Devon mobile library (Image: Libraries Unlimited)

It's fate will be decided next month

The queen has sent her “good wishes” to the woman leading the campaign to save Devon’s mobile library service.

Authors, actors and celebrities have supported Torridge councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin in her fight to see Devon County Council’s plan to axe the service overturned, and now the campaign has reached Buckingham Palace.

Nine thousand people have signed a petition to keep the mobile library and Queen Camilla, although not able to give a political view, has passed on her best wishes and says she was interested to hear of suggestions to improve the service.

Cllr Cottle-Hunkin wrote to the palace not really expecting a reply, but is delighted she at the outcome.

“I contacted Her Majesty because of her charity the Queen’s Reading Room which works to provide opportunities for the appreciation of literature among adults and children in the UK and around the world.”

The charity’s mission is to help more people find and connect with books which enrich their lives and turn them into lifelong readers. The Queen is also a supporter of Active Ageing.

Comedian and author Lenny Henry have his support in the summer, and sent a package of his children’s books to share with the mobile library.

His publisher Macmillan Children’s Books said: “Lenny is a big champion of libraries, almost every time he is interviewed about his children’s books he mentions how much he went to Dudley Library as a child.

Lenry is quoted as saying his Aunty Pearl originally got him a library card and “suddenly I was in a world of stories and it changed my life.”

He joins Stephen Fry, Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo, Dermot O’Leary, Nick Butterworth, Sarah McIntyre, Jacqueline Wilson, Belinda Bauer, Liz Shakespeare, Veronica Henry, Patrick Gale, Tanya Landman, Claire Barker and Harriet Knock in backing the mobile library service.

The county council says it is not cost effective to replace the four ageing vans in its fleet and people taking out books from them is reducing. Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox said the county needs to find “alternative finance models” to sustain the service.

There has been cross party support for the mobile library with councils across the county urging the council to change tack. Supporters say figures showing decline in usage is misleading as the number of vans has been cut from eight to four.

The Liberal Democrat-controlled North Devon Council was the latest authority in the county to show its support when it backed a motion by independent councillor John Patrinos. It stated: “This council recognises the huge importance of the mobile library service across the whole of North Devon. To help lift our communities out of poverty, deprivation, isolation and loneliness we should be increasing access to books, not removing them.”

Devon County Council’s cabinet will discuss the mobile library service at their meeting on Wednesday 8 November at County Hall in Exeter.

They deferred the item from their last meeting to allow time for more questions from the public to be answered.

The deadline to submit questions is 12 noon on Thursday 2 November.

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