BOLD plans to preserve Darlington's library service, and save the town's historic central library from closure, were unveiled by campaigners last night.

Volunteers from Darlington for Culture say their idea will secure the future of the town's Crown Street and Cockerton libraries - without the need for major cutbacks.

If successful, the plans - which have been fully costed - could become a blueprint for other communities fighting to save their library services from council cutbacks.

Darlington for Culture, which formed a community steering group to draw up the proposal, says an independent Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) should be created to run both buildings in conjunction with the community.

Under the plans sent to Darlington Borough Council, the local authority would continue to run the library service with professional library staff and some volunteer support where necessary.

The CIO would offer additional services within the libraries with the aim of turning them into community hubs.

The extra income generated by the new uses would be put towards the upkeep of the buildings, volunteers say.

If it goes ahead the scheme will even extend the service with a 'quick picks' library satellite site at the Dolphin Centre, operated with a self-service machine, to extend availability of books outside of current opening hours.

And the CIO would also seek to save the mobile library service currently earmarked for closure.

Darlington Borough Council is set to close the two libraries and consolidate the service in the Dolphin Centre sports complex. The authority claims this will save more than £300,000 a year, but campaigners claim hidden costs mean the actual saving will be £102,000. In addition, moving the library into the sports centre will require considerate investment and cause disruption to both buildings.

By refurbishing the buildings, adding new services, supporting staff with volunteers and turning both libraries into community hubs Darlington for Culture believes its plan will save nearly £300,000 per year and provide a vastly improved library service.

John Dean, chair of Darlington for Culture, said the council had challenged the community to come up with alternative proposals to run a library service.

"We have met that challenge," he said, adding: “These are imaginative proposals based on many hours of work and the contribution of many skilled people and we expect the council to take them seriously. The thousands of people who have supported this campaign right from the start deserve that from their councillors.

“The world has changed for local councils and they need to work much more closely with the community. This has to be a partnership and the proposals we have submitted offer a way in which that can happen.

“Our view is that the council now needs to agree to the extra time they promised if the community presented a credible proposal, so that the libraries steering group can work with councillors and officers to secure a bright future for our library service.”

Mr Dean said other communities around the country had formed CIOs to help save their libraries - but the Darlington proposal was among the most ambitious.

The council needs to cut £10.2 million from its budget by 2020 but its library proposals have met with widespread anger. More than 1,000 people demonstrated outside the Crown Street building last month and nearly 7,000 people have signed a Northern Echo petition calling on the council to think again.

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure, local environment and transport, confirmed the local authority had received the submission.

He said: "We recognise that a lot of work has been put into the proposals they have put forward, and these will be considered alongside the other responses we have received from the public throughout the consultation process before any decisions are made.”

To view the Darlington for Culture proposal on their website, visit