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Consultation over the future of libraries to take place

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: June 20, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

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A TWELVE week consultation is set to take place regarding the future of county libraries after Staffordshire County Council announced recommendations to change the way the service is provided.

Under the proposals for the 43 county locations it suggests four 'library extra', 15 'library core' and 24 'library local' would be put in place.

It would mean more services are available online while in some areas the council is looking for communities to get more involved, and even take on and run their local library.

The county council will also explore if partners such as police or health services want to share buildings with libraries, to provide more services in one place to local people.

In a report to the ruling county council cabinet this week, Mike Lawrence, who has responsibility for children, localism and communities, said: "While communities love their libraries the way people use them is changing. We want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come.

"Libraries have already changed a great deal in the last decade, but user numbers are still falling. We need to change, radically, to reinvigorate our libraries so they are better used within their communities and to do this within the council's financial resources.

"To be clear, there are no plans to close any libraries and these changes are not simply about saving money. It's fair to say that across the council we need to find new, more efficient ways of working, and we think the new approach will help to cut some costs."

Under the proposals Leek, Cheadle and Biddulph would become core libraries. These involve buildings with a range of services provided by the county council.

The recommendations state there would be potential to share the premises and opportunities to be more flexible to the needs of individual communities. The council will continue to deliver the full library offer.

Werrington and Blythe Bridge would become local libraries where the council would explore a range of options including opportunities for community organisations to lead, manage and deliver the library offer, giving them the opportunity to maintain or introduce services to meet local need.

The council would support communities to take on this role, but won't be directly involved in the management or staffing.

However Leek South county councillor Charlotte Atkins said that the county council thought that all services could be covered by volunteers.

She said: "The county council think volunteers can run everything and that no professional people need to be involved. It cannot be done.

"The county is tearing the heart out of communities at a frightening speed by closing public service facilities."

In a letter to the Post and Times, one reader who does not want to be named, said the proposals were more extensive than any councillor was letting on and far worse than their press release would suggest.

The letter said: "Leek itself is under threat as they intend to staff some or all larger library's mostly with volunteers only, while making all other staff redundant.

"They intend to close all smaller library's. Those that close may have their staff relocated to larger library's displacing any staff based there, who have been giving excellent service to the local community, so that means in essence that no job is safe."

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