UP to 20 more libraries across North Yorkshire could be entirely run by volunteers as part of a plan to save £1.6m.

Under proposals unveiled by North Yorkshire County Council, smaller libraries, including Bedale, Stokesley, Thirsk, Colburn and Leyburn, would be community-run and only offered professional support from the authority by February 2017.

Five large libraries, including Ripon - the fourth busiest library in the county - Pickering and Knaresborough, would retain just a single member of staff, who would be helped by teams of volunteers.

The plan states one town in each of the county's seven districts, including Northallerton and Richmond, would keep a library staffed by professionals and volunteers.

The cuts, which would see the service lose about 40 of its 120 full-time equivalent staff, follow radical cuts to the county's libraries in 2012.

The scheme would involve the council continuing to provide a home library service and the support local collections in pubs and village halls, such as the one in the community-run George and Dragon at Hudswell, near Richmond.

In 2011, there was a public outcry after the authority proposed axing 22 libraries, before it reduced the number of libraries which would be run by community groups.

The authority's leaders say achieving the savings is vital as it must cut its expenditure by £167m, following cuts in funding from the government.

They say the success of community-run libraries, such as the facility in Hawes, has led them to believe there will be sufficient numbers of volunteers to keep most, if not all, libraries open.

Ian Pearce, chairman of Great Ayton Discovery Centre, said after initial opposition to the county's withdrawal from the village's library and a lengthy process setting up the community venture, there were no major problems and the experience was really rewarding.

He said: "We are in control of our operations and can quickly implement our own decisions, and as a registered charity we can access external funds and grants.”

Launching a three-month public consultation exercise on the proposals, county councillor Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library and information services, said: “The current group of community libraries have proved to be a resounding success.

"They have proved to be of enormous value, and their introduction has enabled the people of North Yorkshire to continue to enjoy an effective library service where otherwise they might so easily have seen it diminish or disappear.”

For details about the proposals, visit northyorks.gov.uk/libraryconsultation