Please read my Annual Report, which follows this note. Perhaps you have heard of our campaign on behalf of the William Salt Library. It is not to keep the collections in the present building at all costs, as some detractors have claimed; we have accepted that the building is not suitable in the long term for document or book storage. However, as the public consultation exercise in January demonstrated, many users of the library object to the County Council’s proposals on various grounds.
One concern is that in the new arrangements the library, which is unique as a trust-run topographical library open to the public, and something for Staffordshire to be proud of, loses its identity as it will be completely absorbed into the County Council collections. Second, most of the book collection will no longer be on open access. Third, neither the trustees nor the County Council appear to have the slightest idea of what will become of the present building. In our view, because it has been the home of the library for 100 years, and is the reason why the records office is where it is, it should be part of the solution. It can provide office space, meeting rooms and exhibition space and save considerable building costs. The Friends’ committee is willing to use funds and to raise more money to see the building refurbished.
The Friends produced a plan, attached to this note, in order to demonstrate that there are alternatives to the rather insensitive proposals put forward by the County Council’s architects. It was offered to the trustees in February and they promised to have it assessed. Unfortunately they sent it to the very same architects whose plans we had found so unsatisfactory; no surprise, then, that the architects’ attitude was negative. We feel that neither the trustees nor the County Council have engaged with the Friends’ concerns or alternative ideas – they give the impression that it would be much better if we kept quiet.
What has brought us to this point? We have asked since February 2013 to have some form of consultation with the Trustees. So far we have had two visits from them when they attended Friends committee meetings. The first one we thought we just might be on a positive track, as the Chairman of the Trustees listened to our proposals, as we submitted a plan to incorporate the old building with the new, (plan attached) and offered to help to raise the money to refurbish the old building. I am cynical enough to believe that this meeting was granted only due to the press coverage the Friends had been granted to fight for the old Library.
The second meeting, was where a Trustee told us that our plans were rejected, without offering any other form of consultation.
We have been denied access to the Library to do an evaluation of the cost of repair, and all our plans have had to be done by standing outside and evaluating!
However the Friends’ is a user’s group, and this is why we continue to have our own independent views which we have and will express at consultations. Please encourage other users and ex-users to join – our address is on this letter, and we even have our own website these days – www.williamsalt.org.uk/ .
Dr David Jacques