A MEETING to decide the fate of North Yorkshire’s libraries will take place next week.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive committee will meet on Tuesday, July 7 to decide whether to press ahead with a recommendation to axe staff at 21 libraries, whilst offering some support to help them stay open.

When the proposals to reduce some libraries to volunteer-run centres were first proposed, more than 17,000 people protested to the council.

One of those affected was Stokesley Library.

Decision-makers initially looked at turning it into a volunteer-run centre, prompting residents to put together a petition containing more than 1,200 names and 425 written objections against the proposals.

Bedale submitted a 2,200 signature petition against similar plans for its library.

Now the county council’s recommendation is to give Bedale, Stokesley, Catterick, Colburn, Easingwold and Thirsk libraries between 12 and 15 hours of support and others including Bedale and Leyburn between five and seven hours.

Independent councillor John Blackie said the latest proposal still does not address the sustainability of libraries already handed over to volunteers, such as the ones at Great Ayton and Hawes.

Volunteers at Great Ayton have to raise tens of thousands of pounds every year and receive £30,000 a year from the parish council to keep it running.

Speaking after the proposals were discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall, Cllr Blackie said it left the community-managed libraries with the "haves and have-nots".

“The original nine won’t get any staffing and won’t get any help with the expenses of the buildings.

He said the final decision on the future of the county’s libraries should have been made at a meeting of full council, not by the smaller, eight-member executive committee.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has expressed concern nationally at the trend for libraries to become volunteer-led, as councils balance diminishing budgets.

“We risk creating a postcode lottery where the quality and sustainability of your library depends solely on where you live,” said a spokeswoman.

“We celebrate the contribution volunteers make, and we are glad that libraries are able to provide opportunities for volunteering. We are, however, concerned about the long-term sustainability of community managed libraries and how viable the model is in different communities.”

The county council has to cut more than £1.6 million from its libraries budget, as it tries to make savings of about £167 million in savings by 2020. A recent libraries meeting heard the council is facing stark funding choices and working to avoid real threats to funding for services which protect the most vulnerable children and adults in society.