More time for libraries plan to be finalised

SCARBOROUGH’S under-threat libraries have been given more time to make plans for their future.

Bosses at North Yorkshire County Council have backed a plan aimed at maintaining a library service while making necessary savings fairly across the county.

The decision gives more time for community ownership solutions to be put forward for smaller branch libraries, such as Scalby, East Ayton and Hunmanby.

However it also means that opening hours and staffing levels could be cut at larger libraries such as Scarborough - where Sunday opening could cease - and Filey.

The council needs to save £69 million in total over the next few years and £2 million was set to be found from the library budget.

The greatest savings must be made in the first two years due to the government’s frontloading of its funding settlement.

Further funding has now been found, so reducing the library savings to £1.7 million, which provides greater time to work with communities to find solutions.

County councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for the Library and Information Service said: “Our library service, one of the most outstanding in the country, is at a crossroads.

“The necessity of making savings has provided the incentive for us to step back and come up with innovative solutions to maintain a vibrant service into the future.

“We cannot do this on our own. The support of our communities is essential if we are to be successful in this endeavour.

“The challenge is to keep our libraries open in a way that is sustainable so that they can grow and develop to meet future needs.”

It is hoped that smaller libraries will attract volunteers to help keep them open, with the support of the county council who will provide book stock and training.

A further report will be brought back to the council’s executive in October 2011 outlining the outcome of partnership discussions with communities.

It will also detail how further savings of £1m will be achieved between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

The county council has welcomed the wide range of ideas and offers put forward during the public consultation.

Many communities groups have put forward ideas. These include:

l School students have suggested running a community café in a town’s library as part of the enterprise and citizenship curriculum and to help maintain the library’s opening hours.

l The parish council have expressed an interest in taking over Barlby library near Selby to develop it into a community centre.

l Community groups offering to become “keyholders” and take over library roles to maintain or extend opening hours.