It is certainly a shock that after just 11 years that the renewed TN2 centre may be shut to the public for good. This comes on top of the proposed drastic reduction in library opening hours at Sherwood from the current 28 hours per week to 15. There are also negative implications for library services at Showfields, Paddock Wood, Rusthall and Pembury, as well as other branches across the borough.
We lose our local library services at our peril, as they are vital for continuing education and literacy for all age groups, as well as their social aspect in providing a sense of community and combatting loneliness. I write as a journalist and published author, who has lived on Sherwood now for over 30 years, and who valued local library services growing up as a teenager on a council estate in Tonbridge.
Many families can no longer afford books for their children, while we have seen schools asking parents to provide textbooks in a time of education funding cuts. Increasing numbers of people also no longer buy newspapers. And Sherwood is also an area like Showfields where there is a higher than average number dependent on Universal Credit for their daily needs.
Indeed, I find the current crisis as outlined in the Courier with regard to TN2 as something of a mystery. Contrary to what is stated, there are quite a few regular and ongoing bookings at the centre. Also, there are hundreds of new houses and flats both in the surrounding area and on the nearby Knights Wood development. I wonder if sufficient outreach is happening to local people who have recently moved in and might as yet be unaware of the services available and how to use or book them, or whether there is another agenda to gradually run it down and then simply sell off the site altogether for more housing?
It will be at least two years or more before the new arts and cultural centre opens its doors in the Town Centre. So in the meantime it is vital that the housing estates and villages keep their local library services open and that these are all not eventually centralised to somewhere it may be difficult for many to reach except by an long, expensive bus journey.