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Libraries see record number of babies

They may not be able to read but a new initiative encourages the very youngest to join the library by offering automatic membership as part of birth registration.



More families than ever before have registered their new baby with the West Sussex library service.

This is thanks to an initiative which encourages the very youngest in the county to join the library by automatically offering membership to babies as part of birth registration appointments.

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On average 8,700 births are registered each year in West Sussex. Of this, 7,500 (86%) opted to join the library service this year compared with 6,000 (69%) the year before.

Special sessions of ‘rhyme time’ are planned in June to welcome children to the library and celebrate the benefits of sharing books, stories and rhymes from as early an age as possible.

This forms part of the Booktrust’s National Bookstart Week which runs until June 10.

A full list of events can be found here:

Debbie Kennard, Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said:

“Our libraries are such great spaces, bringing together people of all ages and allowing them to thrive in a safe environment. I’m so excited to see the numbers of our very youngest libraries users has gone up at the very start of this year.

“I hope this could mark the start of a lifelong love of reading!

“As well as supporting your child’s development and helping prepare them for school, libraries are also an excellent way for parents to connect and access useful resources.

“I would really encourage families come to one of the special rhyme time events.”

Every baby is entitled to a Bookstart baby pack containing baby books, a rhyme sheet and information for parents and carers about sharing stories and rhymes with babies. This is usually given by a health visitors at 6 to 8 weeks of age or is also available in local libraries.

Bookstart is a national programme run by Booktrust to introduce children to books as early as possible.

BookTrust is the largest children’s reading charity in the country.

Learn more about free Bookstart packs for children and babies here:

The county council is passionate about the vital role played by our library and children and family services in providing shared spaces for local people to thrive – by providing access to information, places to connect with others, opportunities to learn new skills and ways in which to build confidence and community resilience.

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Crawley library in danger of losing opening hours as County Council choose money saving over services

Another public consultation and this time it is about reducing opening hours for the library.



Crawley library users are being asked to share their thoughts on proposed budget savings which would see a reduction in opening hours at Crawley Library.

The consultation running from 9 October to 13 November 2019 is, according to the council, aimed to help inform the decision due to be taken by West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member, Jacquie Russell, in November. 

The suggested savings include for Crawley to:

Reduce the evening opening hours in the library by one hour (from 7pm to 6pm) from April 2020.

This change, along with the same reduction in hours at three other Sussex libraries along with the ceasing of the mobile library service would apparently result in a total year on year saving of £175,000.

Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for Fire and Rescue and Communities, said:

“Since becoming cabinet member, I have often been asked about what will happen to libraries across the county. As I have said before, we need to look at doing things in a more affordable way, but ultimately my aim is to preserve the core of the library service.

“With the suggested savings being proposed, we hope that the other services we have on offer at libraries across West Sussex will diminish any negative impact to users. 

“However, I still want to hear the thoughts of our library users by way of this consultation, especially those who are specifically affected by the proposed budget savings, as this will help to shape and inform my decision in November.”

But Crawley residents will be all too wary of consultations and how they can be just lip service and completely ignored as recently happened with the consulation over the Post Office move into County Mall.

Crawley MP Henry Smith said:

“When West Sussex County Council Leader over a decade ago, I was pleased to procure and open the new Crawley Library, which ever since has been an important community resource. I would encourage all who care about our library to engage with the Council’s consultation and call for evening opening hours not to be reduced.”

You have until 13 November 2019 to have your say.

To find out more and fill in the consultation, visit

CN24 approached Jacquie Russell for a guarantee that if the results of the consultation came back that there was a majority against the reduction in hours that she would keep the library open till 7. A response has not yet been received.

But West Sussex County Council did respond saying:

“This is a live consultation and we encourage residents to have their say before the deadline of 13 November. After the consultation has closed, the responses will be taken into consideration before any decision is made.”

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