COUNCIL leader and libraries portfolio holder Cllr John Kent, is calling for a celebration of the 500,000 person to borrow an item from a Thurrock library this year.
He announced the proposal when he was speaking at the Creative and Cultural Skills national conference Building a Creative Nation: The Next Decade at the Backstage Centre, High House Production Park on Thursday (5 March).
Speaking to delegates from across Britain, Cllr Kent said: “At a time when authorities are closing libraries, I am proud that in Thurrock we are thinking differently, thinking creatively, not only will we be closing no libraries this year we’re going to be opening a new library here in Purfleet, an area which traditionally hasn’t had one.
“And, just looking at facts and figures, last year Thurrock libraries issued 475,000 items and I am determined that this year we’ll get up to half a million and what we want to put in place is a prize for the half-millionth issue, so whoever it is that takes out the 500,000 will win a prize.”
Afterwards, Cllr Kent said he had been approached by Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House offering two tickets to a Covent Garden production.
Speaking outside the conference, Cllr Kent added: “Libraries have been a very hot issue locally this year as over 3,000 people took part in our consultation.
“Some are claiming it was their effort that secured ‘victory’. I would say, it was a victory for common sense on the future of libraries.
“The fact that we received so many responses plus petitions and letters just goes to show that the community cares about this service just as we at the council care and are very proud of as our decision proves.”
He said: “With all the publicity our libraries have had over the past few weeks I can’t see why we can’t reach half a million items issued in the current financial year and we should celebrate that fact.
“Today, Thursday, March 5 is National Book Day and that seems the perfect day to launch this initiative – a read letter day if you’ll excuse the pun.”
He added: “The cabinet report highlights the success of thecouncil’s consultation and how a combination of new ideas, cross-council working and expansion of the community hub system will achieve the necessary savings over the next two years – and allow us to create a new library.
“Opening a library in Purfleet has been a long-held ideal of mine. I wanted to do it when I was portfolio holder in 2003 and it is great that I am able to announce it now.
“People have been very cynical about our proposals saying they need to ‘read the small print’ before getting too carried away. I urge them to do just that.
“The library service will change, of course it will, it has changed constantly over its 160 year history, but that’s as good thing. Books are good, e-books too, as are all the many things people can use our libraries for, computers, internet access, DVDs, Bookstart, and information, to name just a few.
“Libraries will change and that list will grow, encouraging new people in through the doors and former customers to come back. I am confident we’ll hit that half-million mark before the end of the month.”