THINK of libraries and the stereotypical image of a spectacled librarian mouthing “shh!” comes to mind.

But Essex libraries have been anything but quiet since November.

From book raids and protests to petitions and community meetings, people are being encouraged to ditch silence for making as much noise as possible to save their libraries.

Essex County Council’s consultation on their future comes to an end on February 20 after three months.

Since the council announced it was looking at closing a number of libraries, including Prettygate, West Mersea, Brightlingsea, Manningtree and Stanway and Walton, people have come together to save them.

More than 13,000 residents have completed the council’s consultation while 5,000 people have signed petitions calling on them to remain open at all costs.

Residents have also come together for book raids, taking out as many books as possible from the at risk libraries to prove they are being used.

It is not just residents who are up in arms.

The consultation has even sparked problems at County Hall with cabinet member Sue Lissimore (Con) resigning her position in January to back residents’ concerns.

She had been responsible for communities and culture at Essex County Council for 18 months.

But Mrs Lissimore, who is also a Colchester borough councillor, said she would not be able to represent residents’ views if she remained in her county council position.

She said: “There’s always been a little bit of a clash between being a county councillor and a cabinet member but I felt so strongly that we save Prettygate Library it was important I spend time working with local residents to get this consultation right.

“I have lived in Prettygate for 30 years and I know how important the library is to the community. It is the only community building we have here.

“We had a public meeting a couple of weeks ago which was attended by more than 100 residents. It was an incredibly turnout.

“We answered as many questions as we could and we put forward a suggestion we ask the county council to move Prettygate Library from tier four to tier two, which would mean keeping it as it is.

“It seemed the assessment the county council did to put the library in tier four did not seem to be correct.”

Mrs Lissimore has now written to the county council and is waiting for a reply.

In the meantime, she is appealing to residents to continue to fill in the consultation so they can look at what the library provides and increasing its facilities.

Fellow Prettygate councillor Beverley Davies (Con) is looking into securing funding to provide toilets at the site.

And if it goes ahead it means more organisations could use the building and the library could be open for longer hours.

Mrs Lissimore added: “But we need people to fill out the consultation otherwise we don’t know what people want.”

Among those options announced by County Hall when it launched the consultation are volunteers looking after libraries rather than paid staff and residents being given access to library resources online rather than in person.

Community halls could also be used for events rather than libraries.

Despite the wave of protests and action from residents, it will not be known if the have been successful until June, when Essex County Council is expected to reveal the results.

And with only 20 days left until D-Day when the consultation closes, the race is on to save as many libraries as possible before they are lost forever.

Susan Barker, cabinet member responsible for customer and corporate, said an independent company would analyse the responses when the consultation closed.

She said: “No decisions have been made and won’t be until they have all been looked at.

“Cabinet will then discuss it thoroughly and vote on what will happen. We have had a great response and we were expecting the level we have got.

“We have to find ways of working with the community but it has to be realistic. I am quite happy to have a conversation and have offered to have one with Sue Lissimore about Prettygate Library but have yet to hear back.

“The answer to the consultation isn’t just ‘don’t close it’. We need ideas.”

To have your say, go to or call 0345 603 7639