RESIDENTS whose beloved library is at risk of closure have united to try and convince the council not to shut its doors.

As reported in the Gazette, Hampshire County Council (HCC) are looking into proposals that could see three libraries in the area close.

Since the announcement two weeks ago, residents have come together to stop HCC closing the doors.

A group on Facebook, called Friends of Chineham Library, set up shortly after the announcement was made, now has nearly 700 members, whilst the Gazette has received dozens of letters and hundreds of comments from people across Chineham, South Ham and Odiham expressing their confusion and concern over the proposals.

One Chineham resident, Sheena Grassi, said she was “astounded” when she heard the news that HCC could axe what she calls a “Great British institution”.

A user of the library for 30 years, Sheena said: “Libraries should be preserved. It is really important for everyone, you are talking about education, you are talking about people on low incomes and might not be able to buy books. Or maybe someone who is not working that is trying to get back into work or some inspiration they need to change course.

“If you take this away, what is going to happen to us?

“I think I would be devastated, and other people would be as well. You lose the social thing for everyone.

“It’s been a lifeline, especially when our family were young and were financially very poor. It gave us somewhere we could bring our children to enjoy books.”

She also stresses the wider effect the closures would have on people other than herself.

“Although it’s going to affect me, it’s going to affect so many more people as well,” she added.

“We’ve got young children, students and other older people that use the libraries.

“It’s not just about me, it’s about all the other people it would effect.”

Basingstoke and Deane does currently have many libraries, in Chineham, South Ham, the Discovery Centre in Festival Place, as well as libraries in Tadley and Overton, but some residents were confused over the climate ramifications.

HCC declared a climate emergency in June, and in the process committed to putting “environmental issues at the heart of everything it does”.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said this didn’t make sense, as people will now have to travel by bus or car into the town centre to go to the library.

She said: “It is the heart of the community. Everyone can go there, it is free. It would make it dead up here [Chineham District Shopping].

“The amount of money it costs to run the library, it has got to be value for money. There are plenty of things you can cut back on.”

Meanwhile, one person raised that libraries provide more services than just books.

Amy Borrell, who has been using the library for nearly 30 years, said: “The library is imperative to the community, serving a purpose which extends way beyond providing young and old with a vast supply of books.

“It is a community hub which supports new mums through regular groups, a safe space for teens to revise, a provision for those who do not have access to technology to come and use computers and other facilities.

“It is a vital part of the Chineham community and we would be devastated if this was to be taken away.”

When the Gazette visited Chineham library earlier this week, it could not have been further away from the stereotypical picture of a library - a disused, damp, dreary building with more staff than visitors.

On Tuesday morning, there were around 50 mums and toddlers at the library’s rhymetime programme, one of the many things that they put on there. There was elderly people musing through the aisles of books, teenagers sat at the desk working, and toddlers running around as if they were in a toy store. And it is encouraging children to read that has concerned local author Sue Lawrence.

“In my experience of reading to groups of children in Chineham library, I’ve seen first hand how engaged they can be by books and how much they love hearing stories come alive through these events,” she told the Gazette.

“Without a local library in the I truly feel that many children would be missing out. For this reason, I’ve always supported the local libraries and donated my books to several libraries across Hampshire.”

Reflecting on the impact that the library had on her, Sheena continued: “Wherever you are in your life, this is the mainstay. This is the cornerstone and you can always come back to it.

“It should be something that we should be promoting. Not everyone has got the high aspirations, books can inspire people.

“If it wasn’t for the libraries, I would be struggling. Libraries are for all.”

To give HCC your views on their consultation, go to: