Libraries need saving by community groups

COMMUNITY groups and private businesses are being asked to help run local libraries in a bid to balance the books.

At a recent Wakefied Council cabinet meeting councillors decided to ask organisations to step in with ideas to keep the district’s libraries – including those at Hemsworth, South Elmsall, South Kirkby, Kinsley, Havercroft and Upton – open.

Cabinet members were told that the spending review means Wakefield Council needs to come up with potential solutions to the issues facing the library service.

The report to cabinet also said a number of libraries could close if alternative ways of running them are not found.

Earlier this year the council carried out a Books for All review to ask people how libraries could be improved.

Councillors have now given the go-ahead to stage two of the review, which will look at new ways of delivering the service.

A month-long ‘community sounding’ is currently taking place to find out if any groups or individuals would be interested in taking over the services and facilities.

There will also be an open day at Wakefield County Hall between noon and 1.30pm and Wakefield Town Hall between 6pm to 7.30pm, both on Monday, December 6.

Officers will be there to answer questions, supply information and hand out questionnaires.

Coun Peter Box, leader of the council, said a core library service would still be provided, but that it may change in some ways.

He also said the changes would make it more modern and efficient.

He said: “To set this review in context, we are expecting to cut our budget by around £65 million over the next four years. Clearly we will have to review all our services.”

Coun David Dagger, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: “We are keeping an open mind about the way forward for libraries but one thing is clear – we want to transform the service we provide to local people and address issues such as book stock, access, the quality of facilities and budgets.

“The community sounding could cover anything from running a storytime session in another language, through to running a group of libraries.

“We need to establish what, if any, level of interest there is from individuals, groups or organisations in contributing towards the running of the service.”

For more information on taking part in stage two of the review or to fill in a questionnaire, visit www.wakefield.gov.uk/libraries, drop into your nearest library or call 01924 302213.

Completed questionnaires must be returned to the council by Friday, December 17.