ALL over Taunton Deane, if you look carefully, are vestiges of the myriad ‘lost orchards’ which once covered countless acres of our local ‘green and pleasant land’.

In sheltered spinneys and hedgerows, even motorway verges, you may spy later this Spring, a sprinkling of ‘forgotten’ apple-blossom sprouting from tousled hedges, thickets and areas of waste ground, often where you’d least expect to find it.

And why mention this now? 

Because, not to stretch the point too far, we may be on the brink of losing an equally integral part of our inner as well as outer landscape; our much-loved public libraries.

Throughout Somerset, just like those orchards of yesteryear, our libraries face the prospect of being progressively closed or handed over to community volunteers in the effort to save between £300 and £500k in running costs, and many of the smaller branches could be affected.

Yes, they may continue to exist, but not as we at present know them as part of a national network essentially set up by our philanthropic Victorian forebears for the good of all, regardless of income or social status.

Is it not a sad indictment on our present times that we’re even considering doing this?

READ MORE: Up to half of Somerset libraries could close under plan to save money

Smaller branches may well remain open in some form staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, whose efforts I most certainly would not seek to denigrate, but libraries will no longer be professionally staffed by experts who have often spent a lifetime working in their chosen sphere. 

In addition to the inevitable redundancies this will cause our libraries, if staffed on an ad hoc local basis however willingly, will lose that national and regional connectivity, meaning books and other resources can be shared across from other branches.

An equally important point - against a background of large and widespread ‘High Street’ upheaval due to changes in our shopping habits because of internet technology - is that our town centres look set to become places where people congregate for social reasons more than actually to buy things.

Recent figures over Christmas 2017 show footfall in conventional shops is steadily falling, whilst people are flocking to numberless cafes, eateries, high street gyms, cinemas and the like.

A local library, as a meeting place and social hub, surely falls into this category, especially with the looming demographic of an ageing population, many of whom still actually like to borrow and read books!

So, to sum up, our public libraries, which have taken pains to move with the times and now provide computer terminals, photocopying services, various forms of modern automatic check-out procedures and other hi-tech resouces in addition to shelves of books, are well worth fighting for.

READ MORE: Libraries consultation is open - have your say 

Luckily my own Wellington High Street library - a so-called smaller branch which actually received over 68,000 visits from the public last year - has the strong backing of the town council and others, to keep it open for all.

If you would like to have your say about keeping local branch library open, go to between now and April 22.