Community Libraries may not now close

Bilton Library

Communities around North Yorkshire are being praised for the way they have responded to the need to reshape the county’s library service in the face of major cuts in Government funding.



Hopes are rising that no library will be forced to close – despite the loss of nearly £70 million from North Yorkshire County Council’s funding from central Government.

Detailed proposals for the future of the service are due to be considered by councillors in November. Although it is too early to give assurances, there is a “strong possibility” that the positive attitudes of local communities and the innovative solutions put forward by communities working with library services will mean all of North Yorkshire’s 42 libraries will be able to remain open.

 County Councillor Chris Metcalfe said:

There has been a tremendous response from communities around North Yorkshire,” said , Executive Member for the library service.

It would be wrong to give any guarantees at this stage, but the proposals and business plans we have received from community groups are all extremely promising, and we will do all we can to assist to turn them into reality.

Also critical to the success of maintaining the service is the creation of teams of volunteers to help run the libraries.

Councillor Metcalfe added:



Following the feedback from the consultation to ‘share the pain’, all of our libraries will see a reduction in opening hours, some of as much as 30%, unless suitable numbers of volunteers can be found to assist.

For the eight libraries in Category 3, where the county council will continue to supply book stock but not staff or running costs therefore, volunteers and community support will be essential.

We have been very gratified by the enthusiasm and support shown by communities which do not want to lose their libraries. We have volunteers ranging from teenagers who want to gain experience – and perhaps add useful information to their CVs – to older people who love books and want to play an active part in keeping their library at the heart of the community.

The more volunteers we get, the better the service will be – whether it’s to read to children, to deliver books using the home library service or to help in other ways to maintain the library service that is so highly valued in North Yorkshire.

These communities have until the end of October to present the county council with their proposals for taking over the running of, their libraries and, unless sustainable solutions are produced, libraries will close in April 2012. Plans will be considered by the Care and Independence Overview and Scrutiny Committee on November 16, before going to the Executive on November 22.

MP Andrew Jones commented:

This is welcome news and comes after long and determined campaigns by local residents and councillors to keep the libraries open. I have been pleased to lend my support to those campaigns and it looks like the community has risen to the challenge to save the libraries.

While the future is not yet certain the County Council’s announcement marks a huge leap forward in the campaign.

Community libraries are not just about books but offer a wide range of other services such as after school clubs and mother and toddler groups which would be a great loss to local people. It is important that, alongside book lending, these other services are preserved wherever possible and I will be pressing the County Council to ensure that these are included in any package that comes forward.

Bilton Councillor Alec Brown added:

I’ve worked hard with the Bilton Library Friends Group and I know it will be an enormous boost for them and Bilton residents that the library is likely to stay open. These facilities are the hub of many communities and it would be a real blow were the library to close.

 


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