Essex’s new £2.4m plan for libraries across the county has been set out, alongside a promise to keep them all open.

The ‘vision’ focusing on three main pillars over the next four years is set to be agreed next week.

Essex County Council says working to improve literacy for both children and adults, improve communications with Essex residents to tell existing users and new audiences about the full range of services and supporting communities and levelling Up will be at the centre of the Everyone’s Library Service 2022 – 2026 plan.

In a forward to the plans to be adopted by cabinet on April 19, Cllr Louise McKinlay, deputy leader of Essex County Council, says: “Libraries need to be at the heart of our communities. Great libraries are welcoming and inviting, they provide spaces for people to study, to learn, to attend creative clubs, to meet authors, and to play. They offer a wide range of books, e-books, graphic novels and podcasts.

“They support people who are seeking work by providing IT facilities and through running volunteering schemes which enable them to develop their skills and enhance their CVs. Libraries are places where you can learn about your local area and research your family history.

"Young children can prepare for attending school, where students can find a place to study and where residents can access lifelong learning opportunities and our well trained and experienced staff help you access the services you need. This is my vision for Essex Libraries.”

Essex County Council now proposes to spend £400,000 on six fixed-term posts of 18 months to develop the plan by training its existing workforce and recruiting new talent towards its literacy ambitions, community engagement and outreach, and delivering planning and implementation.

Another £400,000 is being spent on refurbishment and creating dedicated Everyone’s Literacy areas in all 74 libraries to improve literacy skills in adults and children.

Another £1.6m is to be spent on the delivery of other initiatives identified by the delivery planning and implementation lead who will have responsibility for turning the ambitions and proposals in the strategy into benefits for each area of the county.

Cllr McKinlay added: “Essex is fortunate to have one of the largest library services in the country, with 74 libraries, a home library service and a fleet of mobile libraries.

"Due to our wide reach, we can connect to and support every community across the county and enhance their lives. Underpinning this is our commitment to keep all our Libraries open as we drive forward our ambitious programme and deliver high quality services across all our locations.

“Our libraries are a lifeline for many people and we will look at how to deliver the library service in different ways, as well as how we make the most of under-used space in our buildings and facilities across the county.

"We will design a service we can be truly proud of. One that is modern, vibrant, and sustainable. One that can improve life for everyone in Essex.

“Through talking to residents and partners, it is clear that my passion for libraries is shared. People see libraries as a hub for communities to come together and interact, a vital resource for helping residents improve their literacy, and a place to learn new skills.”