ANGRY communities are considering legal challenges and marching on county hall in their bid to save their libraries from closure.

The campaign against North Yorkshire County Council’s plans to withdraw funding from 24 of its 42 libraries gathered pace this week with two public meetings.

More than 600 people squeezed into the Parochial Hall, in Great Ayton, near Guisborough, to hear officials explain the proposal. More than 100 others attended, but were unable to get in.

Ian Pearce, from the Save Great Ayton Library campaign group, said: “Everyone was adamant that they wanted to keep the library as it is – paid for by the council with proper library staff.”

Campaigners will meet council officials behind closed doors to look at the options.

However, Mr Pearce said the village finding £15,000 a year to run the service was not one of them.

In Leyburn, more than 70 people packed into Thornborough Hall.

The meeting voted unanimously to oppose the closure and set up a steering group to preserve the best possible library service in the town.

The meeting heard that the county council had been unable to produce figures on how much the library would take to run if the community took over.

People are angry that Catterick Garrison and Richmond libraries will be saved – despite being only three miles apart.

There is also anger that Harrogate Library is likely to remain open seven days a week.

One person at the meeting quoted the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, which he said instructed councils to improve libraries services rather than close branches.

Another user proposed that plans were drawn up to demonstrate outside county hall, in Northallerton.

Richmondshire District Council leader Fleur Butler told the meeting: “Leyburn has a population of 2,500, but the area the library serves has about 10,000 to 12,000 people. I think that’s a point we have to make. It’s a strategic market town and deserves a good library service.”

A woman said she had written to Richmond MP William Hague, but his response suggested he would not be getting involved in the debate.

Figures were produced showing 42 per cent of the library’s users were over-55 and 24 per cent were under-16.