The government is investigating complaints about the pending closure of Darlington's grade II listed Crown Street Library.
The building has been threatened with closure as part of Darlington Borough Council's plans to save £12.5m. The proposals would see most of the library's resources moved into the nearby Dolphin Centre, while Cockerton Library would be handed to volunteers to run. The mobile library services has already been closed.
However, these plans have been temporarily postponed awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge brought by campaigners following an investigation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, according to the Darlington and Stockton Times.
Representatives from the DCMS recently visited Darlington to gather evidence and examine the formal complaints made by campaigners. Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for DCMS, may intervene and order a local inquiry if she believes a local authority is failing to carry out its duty to deliver a comprehensive and efficient library service. The DCMS is currently also investigating proposed cuts to library provision in Lancashire and Swindon.
The Friends of Darlington Libraries group welcomed the visit and said they were pleased the DCMS was looking into the council's plans.
The group said in a statement: “Following many letters of complaint to the DCMS over the past year… we were very pleased to receive their confirmation recently that they were treating them as a formal complaint. They visited Darlington this week to collect evidence to help them decide whether or not to recommend to the minister that a formal inquiry is held. This was a fact finding mission and they advised us of the process to be followed and the areas of concern they evaluate. We were in a position to detail to them in person a first draft of our many concerns over the relocation of the library service."
However, the campaign group said they were warned the government's decision would not be a "speedy one" because it was "just the start" of the its evaluations.
"We will therefore be working to ensure they now have all the information they require as they progress," the group said. "We are more than pleased with this outcome and that DCMS are taking our complaints seriously.”
A spokesman for Darlington Borough Council confirmed to the Darlington and Stockton Times that officers had met with representatives from DCMS.