Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL), currently based on the Denbigh Estate in Dorking, is one of the two largest collections of music sets in public libraries in the UK (only the Yorkshire Music Library, now housed in Leeds, is a similar size). It includes the Kirby Collection, owned by Making Music, purchased with a legacy from former Chairman Alan Kirby. SPAL is crucial not just for music groups in Surrey, but has national significance.
Provision of sheet music is not a statutory duty for local authorities; Surrey County Council, like many, find themselves having to make significant savings. This is the context in which they are now consulting on the future of SPAL.
It is vital that as many responses as possible are submitted to the online survey, so that the council is aware of the reach and impact of this service – and the consultation has now been extended to close on 1 October.
Friends of Surrey Performing Arts Library (FOSPAL) are suggesting that Option 2 (takeover of SPAL by a community group/charity) might be best for the long term (and Making Music would support Fospal in exploring this), but would probably require Option 1 (removal of SPAL stock to one or several other Surrey libraries) as an interim measure. Option 3 (complete closure) clearly would be very detrimental to leisure time music in the county and elsewhere.
As well as completing the survey, interested parties are urged to get in touch with FOSPAL to register their concern and possible support for exploring an independent option.
Further actions could include sharing this message and the survey link via social media, and writing to relevant councillors at Surrey County Council, including Denise Turner-Stewart, Cabinet member with responsibility for libraries; Rachael Lake, Chair, and Saj Hussain, Vice Chair, of the Communities Committee; and leader of the Council David Hodge.
Making Music has been working with a number of local authorities to achieve short- and longer-term solutions which are cost neutral to them but maintain access and affordability of resource for user groups. We have offered to get involved on this occasion.