West Dorset: Volunteers fear libraries will close under council cuts (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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West Dorset: Volunteers fear libraries will close under council cuts
VOLUNTEERS at Beaminster Library who help keep the town service open don’t see how it can continue without county council support.
After the county council threatened to cut 13 of its libraries more than four years ago, volunteers looked to see how they could save their facilities.
Beaminster co-ordinator Elaine Bibby said: “Nothing has been decided definitely so there isn’t anything the volunteer co-ordinators can do until we know exactly what is going to happen.”
But they have been told the county council will pull its funding and may close 20 of its 34 library buildings.
The council proposes to save £417,300 by offering the buildings to communities to take over.
It also proposes to save £143,000 on books and materials.
Mrs Bibby said that county council involvement is vital to run the service.
Rent for the building, which is close to £5,000 a year now, would have to be found.
She said: “Computer access in the library building and the self service counters will go because there would be no formal link.
“The books are rotated every six weeks now and all of that would go I imagine because if they could keep that going then why can’t they keep the library going?
“You will end up just with a building with some books in it.”
Burton Bradstock residents have already been involved in long negotiations with the council and say they are ready to take on the library building.
Bob Hynds, who heads the Burton volunteer group, said: “We have very nearly signed the agreements for the lease and community use agreement.”
Volunteer support means the library is now open six days a week and manned by amateurs every other day.
He said: “You do need professional librarians to help run the library but so far as I know they won’t be withdrawing the hours they support us.
“Ours is a small building and the operating costs are about £2,500 a year, excluding business rates, and that’s feasible to raise in a village.”
Tracy Long, Dorset Library Service manager, said: “If the proposals to change the library service are approved by councillors, we will be consulting with 20 communities across Dorset, and there will be further discussion with communities in both Beaminster and Burton Bradstock.
“Under the proposals going to Cabinet this week, we would offer the local community the chance to take over full responsibility for the library.
“If the cabinet gives the go-ahead, we will have further discussions with the local community to see if they are interested in taking this involvement to another level.”