Central Library to lose café and host ‘enterprise centre’

Rural county councillors voted yesterday to convert the top floor of Cambridge Central Library into an enterprise centre run by an outside company, and to close the café.

Trumpington’s Lib Dem County Councillor, Barbara Ashwood, opened the debate by saying that while she is generally very supportive of Mrs May and the library service, she could not support this because of the lack of background information. The report left her none the wiser, and she was not sure what was really meant by entrepreneurs’ lounge, international membership and the KORA Club. More information was needed on KORA and how the services would be reconfigured. She said she needed more detail before she could make this sort of commitment.

Queen Edith’s Lib Dem councillor, Amanda Taylor, also spoke of the need for assurance about KORA and to know if they are good at what they do. Although independent, if they are located in the library they will be seen as part of the County Council and affect the Council’s own reputation. It would be sad to lose the café, which caters for parents & children and  pensioners, to whom it offers economical lunches – a welcome contrast to commercial outlets in the Grand Arcade. Ironically, bookshops are adding cafés to improve their resilience, but we are told the County’s library café is losing money. She said that before any decision is taken, there should be consultation with library users as well as a presentation by KORA.

Meldreth’s Lib Dem Councillor, Susan van de Ven, described it as an ‘enormous change’ for one of our key public services and that it was our job to ask questions.  On behalf  of residents who had contacted her, she asked what would become of the Cambridgeshire Collection during the interim period before being rehoused in Ely.  She also asked how GCSE and A level students would cope if the library was closed during exam period.  She said she felt it was entirely reasonable to have an opportunity to question KORA before decision making, and felt this was not a decision that should be delegated.

Labour’s Noel Kavanagh was also sceptical, pointing out that there are other facilities in Cambridge offering such services which could be undermined by this move. 

Cllr van de Ven moved an amendment to the motion calling for a deferral pending a presentation from KORA. Unfortunately,  the amendment was not carried and the original recommendation went through with the support of Tory, UKIP and Independent councillors.