Congratulations to everyone who fought to save our libraries from closure.

The news last week that Essex County Council are to keep our local libraries open for at least five years is a victory for common sense and a tribute to all the campaigners across Essex who organized petitions, demonstrations, and protests to urge county hall to change their minds about closing 25 libraries.

A big thank you from me to those who joined the Hands Off Walton Library Campaign group and signed our petition which I handed in along with similar groups across Essex earlier this year.

It was heartening to also see folk write supportive messages on the thank you card delivered to our fantastic, hard-working library staff whose jobs were under threat.

This is an inspiring story of how a united, co-operative group of citizens can change political decisions by the power of collective action.

There are still more details to emerge of the county council cabinet decision and whether local community organizations will still be allowed to submit plans to run their local library.

This would not be a good idea because research shows that volunteer-run libraries offer a basic book lending service, staff are not professionally qualified and able to help library users properly, and they cannot run the full range of community activities that for example take place in Walton Library.

We have coffee mornings, toddler rhyme time, book club, job club, CAB information, PCSO visits, local councillor surgeries, youth counselling, internet access, photocopying, after school homework club, a rare fossil collection exhibition and books by local authors.

The county council has made it clear that they expect libraries to become community hubs, used more extensively for meetings and activities, and evolve into modern, progressive places right at the heart of their communities.

There is funding available so I would urge people to think imaginatively about how our local Tendring libraries can be used more and opened at user-friendly times.

So do please submit ideas to county all direct or via your local county councillor.

I have also created a national petition which aims to secure forever the funding of all libraries in the UK.

Please sign it to improve the chances that it will be debated in the House of Commons. It can be found here:

Steven Walker

Hands Off Walton Library campaign