CAMPAIGNERS will stage a protest outside County Hall while a discussion about the future of libraries is held inside.

About 60,000 signatures were collected from residents opposing moves to close a third of the county’s libraries.

As a result, a special full council meeting has been called at Essex County Council’s headquarters.

This will take place next Tuesday from 10am at County Hall in Chelmsford with protesters from Save Our Libraries Essex rallying from 9am by the atrium entrance in Market Road.

A SOLE spokesman said: “This demonstrates the value of people power and protest.

“This has included 1,000 marching in the county town, thousands joining protests across the county, and the highest number of signatures on a local issue in living memory.

“We will continue to protest and our campaign will grow stronger, until the council backs down from this act of cultural vandalism.”

The spokesman added: “SOLE is, however, disappointed not to have heard anything formally from the County Council, either from a council leader or its democratic services department.

“We entered into lengthy correspondence regarding the petitions, with councillor Sue Barker, Cabinet member responsible for libraries, sending a number of emails to acknowledge receipt of petitions.

“You’d think they’d let petition leads know but we only heard through opposition political representatives.”

The county council said it is considering closing libraries due to the changes in the way people read in the 21st century via technology and tablets.

It has also said volunteers can come forward to run libraries.

Susan Barker, councillor responsible for libraries, said the meeting has been called by the chairman at the request of six councillors to debate a motion about libraries. 

She said: "This is a debate rather than a decision. The meeting is not being held to decide the future of any library or to consider petitions. The decision on whether or not to adopt the draft Libraries Strategy will be taken by Cabinet, likely at some point in the summer. 

"The consultation closed last month and as I have said on a number of occasions, no decisions have been made as we are currently analysing the 21,000 responses. In fact, the strategy is subject to change based on the feedback received through the consultation.

"In response to SOLE’s claim that we did not inform them of the meeting. Details about this and all meetings are openly published on our website. As is the case with all other full council meetings, we would invite all councillors to attend and we would not and do not have to notify external parties about this type of debate. 

"I would also like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the groups that have come forward who are interested in running community managed library services, which is now up to 47. Even though the consultation has closed, expressions of interest can still be submitted up until June on our website."