Reprieve for libraries after public outcry

PUBLIC PLEA: A Save Our Library event at Easingwold library earlier this year.

PUBLIC PLEA: A Save Our Library event at Easingwold library earlier this year.

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Regional Chief Reporter

A LOCAL authority is to continue staffing 15 libraries after plans to introduce volunteer-run branches prompted a public outcry.

However, the future of eight North Yorkshire libraries remains unclear, with council chiefs still looking for local partners to run the services.

As revealed in The Northern Echo last month, North Yorkshire County Council confirmed last night that it had reacted to criticism of its proposed library budget cuts by spreading the savings across the county.

Under the new plans, libraries in the bigger towns – including Catterick, Harrogate, Northallerton, Richmond, Ripon, Stokesley and Thirsk – will have fewer staff and reduced opening hours, with no Sunday opening.

Libraries in 15 smaller towns – such as Bedale, Colburn, Easingwold, Hawes and Leyburn – will be supported with accommodation, books, IT facilities and broadband connectivity.

They will also get some professional staffing based in the library, although at a reduced level.

The council said it was still looking for local partners for eight libraries, such as Great Ayton and Masham, deemed to be in unsuitable premises or near an existing larger library.

If a solution was found, updated book stock, as well as training and help from library service staff, would be provided for volunteers.

Although the council’s supermobile library will be kept for the most rural communities, the ten smaller mobile libraries will go.

Small library outlets in village halls, shops and pubs have been suggested as replacements.

Some villages have also proposed the restoration of their reading rooms, officials say.

The council says it needs to save £69m over the next few years.

A total of £2m was due to be found from the library budget, although that has been reduced to £1.7m after more money was found.

County councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for the library and information service, said members had listened hard during the consultation exercise and felt “heartened that our outstanding libraries are held in such high regard”.

He added: “For this reason we believe the solution we have now put together will help to sustain a vital service into the future, shared across the county while making the necessary savings.”

The revised proposals will go before councillors later this month, before a final report is submitted in October.

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