No library closures - but volunteers will run them

Published date: 12 July 2017 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A promise has been made that libraries across north Shropshire will not be closed.

The pledge was made as Shropshire Council revealed a new strategy which aims to save more than £300,000 every year by the end of 2022/23.

However, under the proposals, libraries such as Gobowen – which was taken over as a community hub last year – must be ‘self-sustainable’ by the end of 2018/19. And the council will expect them to be run solely by volunteers in the future.

Councillor Lezley Picton, cabinet member for culture and leisure services, said: “We have no intention to close any of our libraries.

“We need to prioritise how and where our limited resources are spent now and in the future. By having a hierarchy of library services we believe we can ensure all residents get access to a library service.

“The next five years are crucial for the long-term sustainability and success of public library services in Shropshire and this strategy reflects our ambition and commitment to continue to unlock the huge potential library services have.”

The Library Services Strategy, which aims to make libraries more sustainable, will be discussed by cabinet members tomorrow. It states services like Gobowen are on the bottom of a three-tier system and have just 12 months to find ‘innovative’ ways of generating income which will be explored to ensure long-term sustainability.

It comes just a year after library opening hours across most of Shropshire were cut.

The system has seen libraries prioritised through a four-key criteria, including usage, deprivation, accessibility and proportion of younger and older people, before creating a three-tier group.

Oswestry is in the top tier, which will continue to be financed by Shropshire Council.

The second tier, which includes Ellesmere, will be managed by local community organisations – as has recently been introduced in the town – with a focus on exploring creative ways of generating income in a long-term plan.

The services at these libraries would include flexible opening times, staffed libraries supported by volunteers, reading groups, community hubs and support provided by Shropshire Council’s libraries team.

The third and final tier will be managed by local community organisations with services similar to the second tier but with a request service and without reading groups and ‘community hubs’.

Oswestry town mayor, Councillor Vince Hunt, said: “Oswestry is one of five facilities that will remain much unchanged, and is the second most used in Shropshire.

“It is great for the town and shows how sometimes embracing some change is not necessarily a negative.”

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