The William Salt Library is one of Staffordshire’s greatest treasures. It is crammed full of books, manuscripts, pedigrees, in fact anything relevant to Staffordshire and its people, and it has been going for 140 years. It is unique in Britain as a private research library open to the public.
The County Council maintains the building, which in Eastgate Street, Stafford, and provides staff to help the visitors. However it now wants to drop these responsibilities and move the contents of the library into the record office nearby. This would require a costly extension. Meanwhile the Library will cease in its present form and the building will be disposed of. Something that is special to Staffordshire will have been lost.
The council says that the building is not suitable as a library. But what’s the rush? The building has done its job for over 100 years. It would be sensible to air the issues, and consult on the options available, but the council just has its own favored solution and is asking for a yes or no on that. It doesn’t seem that comments will really be welcomed.
Ironically it is not even certain that one of the council’s main arguments – that the public will have better access to the records if in one place – will actually happen. The council is not just intending to close the Salt; it wants to close the Lichfield Record Office as well. It seems inconceivable that three great repositories can be squeezed into one, even with an extension, and the likelihood is that a great deal of material will end up in an old warehouse near the County Showground. This material will take over 2 days to arrive at the record office when requested. The situation will get worse with new material being deposited all the time.
The whole idea illustrates the short-termism of our elected Councillors, and a lack of appreciation of anything that is fine or historic. Remember the brine baths? Did you know that the council wants to dispose of the historic Shire Hall in the Market Square? Did those of us who voted know that these people would turn out to be such boors?
Who is going to stand up for the William Salt Library?