LIBRARIES in Essex have been saved for at least a further four years after “ambitious” and “sustainable” plans were given the green-light.

Essex County Council approved the Everyone’s Library Service scheme during a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, protecting the county’s libraries until 2026.

The initiative was signed-off after an eight-week public consolation period in which the views of thousands of residents were taken on board.

The project promises to increase the range of online resources available while also investing in training and the upskilling of staff at Essex’s 74 libraries.

Thurrock Gazette:

More help will be given to children and adults looking to improve their literacy, facilities will become more sustainable, and engaging library events will be organised.

Louise McKinlay, deputy leader of Essex County Council responsible for community, equality, partnerships and performance, is delighted the plans were approved.

She said: “This is an important moment for our library service and signifies the start of new and exciting opportunities for residents. The plan will help create a service that is modern, vibrant and sustainable, with improved access, better facilities and more opportunities for local people.”

The decision comes just after three years since County Hall initially unveiled plans to shut down 25 of its 74 libraries and remove support from an additional 28.

The move ignited a wave of backlash, prompting the formation of the Save Our Libraries Essex activist group and protestors to take to the streets.

High-profile figures such as David Walliams and Dame Jacqueline Wilson also threw their support behind the campaign before council bosses performed a u-turn.

Speaking to the Gazette, author Dermot O’Leary, from Colchester, also stressed the need for libraries to remain open.

He said: “Kindles and e-books are still important, but the actual picking up of a booking and reading it, irrespective of your age, is great and I think that is heartening.

"Libraries are hugely important, and are up there with hospitals as far as I am concerned.”