FAMILIES and community leaders have expressed concerns at plans to drastically reduce library services.

North Yorkshire County Council last week announced a consultation on plans to reduce its library provision, with authorities in Durham and Darlington, as well as farther away, also considering cuts.

As many as 24 of the 42 libraries in North Yorkshire could close, saving £2m.

The more remote areas of North Yorkshire would be hardest-hit, with already pared-down services in Bedale, Great Ayton and Leyburn understood to be among those at risk.

The county council hopes volunteers will come forward in the communities to help keep services running.

Bedale mayor Bob Pocklington said he doubted whether such an approach would succeed in his town, with volunteer numbers already low for the community groups he is involved with.

He said: “It appears that the county council is supporting the Government’s idea of the big society, which is great in theory.

“The idea of the communities doing things for themselves relies on there being enough willing volunteers to participate.

“I have family who use the library and it is a facility that should always be there for youngsters to develop their interest in reading, as well as for recreation.”

Under the proposals, the county’s ten mobile libraries, which provide an outreach service in the most remote areas, would be reduced to two internet-enabled mobile libraries.

Sarah Myles, from Bedale, has two sons, aged six and two, who are both library cardholders.

She said: “My eldest does a lot of work at the library with his primary school, while my youngest comes to Music With Mummy sessions with me.

“A lot of things are under threat at the moment, so this is no great surprise, but I would be very disappointed if it was lost altogether.

“There are lots of older people in our communities and libraries are a lifeline for many.”

Writers including Kate Mosse and Will Self have joined North Yorkshire author GP Taylor in criticising the cuts, which are expected to hit libraries across the UK.

Mr Taylor, best known for his Shadowmancer series, last week described the plans as vile.

Ms Mosse, whose 2005 novel Labyrinth has been translated into more than 30 languages, said “frontline support for literacy” was being cut.