(reproduced from here, with thanks: Nettleham Parish News)
On Wednesday 19 March 2014, Nettleham Parish Council held an Extraordinary Parish Council Meeting in the Old School to debate the future of Nettleham Public Library and discuss possible alternatives. This impassioned verbal appeal on the night by Mr Ronald V Edwards of Wold View, Nettleham and subsequently supplemented especially for publication in Nettleham News, calls for Lincolnshire County Council to urgently reconsider and reverse the decision for the imminent closure of this valuable village facility.
The village of Nettleham is unique, not in Lincolnshire alone, but in Great Britain; not just for its beauty: there are other beautiful villages; not just for the friendliness of its residents, though that is one of its outstanding features; not because it has qualified on repeated occasions as ‘The Best Kept village’, though that is most commendable. Besides being a most pleasant, peaceful village, which many visit for its sheer attractiveness, Nettleham has special and specific historical honours.
This lovely village retains a history unique in Britain: having been the site of the original manor house of “Edith of Wessex, wife of Edward the Confessor and later Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England, before passing into the possession of the Bishops of Lincoln… one of the country’s most important sees.” And because, in addition, in “1301 King Edward I of England was staying in the Bishop’s Palace [Nettleham] when he created his son Edward (later Edward II of England) as the first Prince of Wales*.” No other place in Britain can boast that. Nettleham also was the fountainhead of fresh, clear spring water: the source of water, through the Roman aqueduct, for the city of Lincoln. Nettleham is the present location of Lincolnshire County Police Headquarters; as well, more recently, of Lincoln Rugby Club. So though small, it is not insignificant.
Shall such a village, with its unparalleled history, be deprived of its Library: very centre of its cultural heritage? We are thankful to those responsible, that its closure has been deferred for one year, with diminished opening hours (from May). This seems a very sensible path, as well as more far-sighted. If things are hard at present, they will not always be so. To keep the Library open, at least ‘ticking over’, say one or two days a week, until times improve, would seem the soundest way forward.
To close the Library, then to open it again when the economy improves, would be catastrophic economy; and a challenge, in all probability, too great ever to be surmounted: which would be an irrevocable loss to the community. We need to think our long-term strategy through clearly. Also, what if the beautiful and commodious buildings meanwhile were to be sold? That indeed would be the end of that fine and valuable social institution!
Does not this present situation bring to memory Dr Beeching, who, during a previous period of depression, ‘axed’ the railways of so many minor lines: which now would have been very advantageous; but through one man’s shortsightedness are no more? A library van is NO replacement for the facilities of a community Library like Nettleham: which is a vibrant, well-used institution. From its moment of opening, till the minute it closes, it is never vacant or idle, but constantly in use. It is the throbbing, beating heart, or brain, of Nettleham; it is the soul of the community. Indeed it is the greatest social asset Nettleham has, for both an emerging and an ageing population. This is the Library for a whole district, community and town.
Nettleham village stands to be deprived of two major facilities: one already a fait accompli; the other in the offing. Two institutions lost to Nettleham, or pending loss. It has already been deprived of its fine Old People’s Home, ‘Linelands’: which stands empty, unused and boarded up: beautiful and extensive buildings in a most delightful setting. Now Nettleham is threatened with forfeiture of its Public Library: a good, modern, commodious building in constant use, central to the community; in use by parents with their children; also a large and increasing proportion of Nettleham residents are retirees. So it provides services for both ends of the age spectrum, as well as all between.
Possible Measures to Reduce Costs
A public service like a library – or any other – should be totally exempt from Rates. It is NOT a profit-making business: that should be enough. It need not be a ‘charity’, to qualify as ‘non-profit-making’. This is a principle that should apply universally, if it does not already. With no disrespect to them, fulfilling a wonderful mission, why should ‘Charities’ have every advantage; and a public service, like libraries, have none? ‘Charities’ benefit their respective worthy causes: which benefit is limited to those helped. Public services are available to all. Public services, as a matter of principle, must surely take precedence. On that principle, libraries should be totally exempt from Rates.
Librarianship is a trained, qualified and experienced profession. Lacking such essential foundation, volunteers, with the best will in the world, cannot adequately fulfil its responsibilities. Assistants can be volunteers, under the oversight of a professional Librarian. Therefore maintain the services of one paid, professional Librarian (minimum), though on a part-time basis. It should not be impossible to find a qualified Librarian, willing to stand in, in order to retain Nettleham Library. During this depression, until things improve, maintain minimum opening hours: say, two half-days a week.
Evaluate the entire spectrum of responsibilities: there seems no shortage of concerned and eager volunteers – 80 or more. What responsibilities could be so delegated? Such simple, sensible and useful measures taken, could then be incorporated permanently into the future operation of the Library, once the depression is past.
Above all else, we would fail sadly of our due obligation, were we to forget the human element that has made our Library what it has been throughout the years since it was established – the ever-warm and courteous welcome of the staff and ever-prevailing atmosphere of cheerfulness and service, noticeable the moment one steps inside the building: nothing too small, or too big, for their considerate help. The long years of service devoted by many, through decades. And not least of all, the immaculate condition in which the Library unfailingly is kept: which contributes not a little and makes it such a pleasure for all who use its services, from day to day, week to week and year to year. The most enduring appreciation must be put on record to all who so effectively have contributed, and are doing so, to its enduring success.
In conclusion, it may be suggested, in this time of austerity, the real question to consider is this: would we be better served by less paid politicians and more public libraries? Is not this the question that really should be addressed in such a time when costs apparently are paramount? It has been truly said that the best defence against deception, propaganda and imposture is an educated people.
The now-demolished Bishop’s Manor House at Nettleham was the property Edith of Wessex, wife of Edward the Confessor and later Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England, before passing into the Possession of the Bishops of Lincoln, who enlarged it to create a Bishop’s Palace appropriate to one of the country’s most important Sees. On 7 February 1301 King Edward l of England was staying in the Bishop’s Palace when he created his son Edward (later Edward II of England) as the first Prince of Wales.
Also from that edition of Nettleham News, a Thank You to library staff