CAMPAIGNERS are staging a week of marches in a bid to save Essex libraries from being run by volunteers.

Save Our Essex Libraries (SOLE) campaigners will hold the socially-distanced marches during the final week of August.

They say proposals for community-run libraries are a closure by stealth and they will be marching across the county to converge at County Hall in Chelmsford.

The marching will start at Manningtree Library on August 22, at 11am, and end at County Hall at 3pm on August 29.

A SOLE spokesman said: “Proposals to sell off many of the smaller, local, library buildings, get rid of the staff, and have these libraries run by volunteers are entirely unsustainable.

“Our week-long, socially-distanced march will visit many of these libraries which remain under threat.”

  • On August 22, campaigners will walk between Manningtree and Brightlingsea libraries.
  • The following day they will march from Brightlingsea Library at 11am to Colchester Library.
  • On the way they will rally at Wivenhoe Library at 2pm, and library users from Mersea Library will be joining the day via the Mersea-to-Brightlingsea ferry.
  • On August 24, the protest will link Colchester, Prettygate and Stanway libraries, while on August 25 they will march on to Tiptree Library.
  • On August 26, the march will continue to Kelveldon and Coggeshall libraries before going forward to Silver End and Witham libraries the following day.
  • On August 28, the march will leave Witham Library to end at Broomfield Library, going via Hatfield Peveral Library.

The final day will see the main march move on from Broomfield to Chelmsford’s County Hall.

The spokesman added: “As we emerge into these new and uncertain times, libraries will be needed more than ever.

“Where else will unemployed people be able to apply for benefits and look for jobs? Where else will people be able to find a new career, self-help, or solace in a book? This cultural vandalism must be stopped.”

Last year, Essex County Council backtracked on its plan to close 25 of the county’s libraries after a fierce backlash from campaigners.

The authority pledged not to close any libraries for five years and to pump £3 million of investment into the service.

It still hopes to set up community-run libraries.

A council spokesman said: “Essex Libraries are safe. We’re keeping all libraries open, and, following the easing of the lockdown, we have already reopened 69 libraries and will open the remaining five libraries in August.

“We are investing in libraries and responding to the diverse ways people now access reading material for information and pleasure. for example, in response to popular demand, we have added e-comics and graphic novels to our e-library collection, which are proving really popular.

“Essex and Thurrock Libraries will also soon join The Libraries Consortium (TLC), the UK’s largest library consortium. This will mean our library users will now have access to almost 8 million items of stock.

“We are also upgrading our library management system and self-service facilities, providing a more modern and customer-friendly library experience; plus we will be making it easier for customers to access their library 24/7.

“We’ve already upgraded public computers in all 74 libraries and we have started putting in more attractive, modern energy efficient lighting.

“We have also introduced a library app, making it easier for customers to access the service, renew their items, or reserve a book. We are proud of our dedicated library staff, and will be investing in a whole programme of staff training over the next few years.”