Derby city council intends to transfer 11 libraries over to volunteers in a bid to save £648,000 - but campaigners say this is the same as "destroying" them.
The council has proposed a series of options, but would prefer to close the city’s central library, relocating it to a new “Derby Riverside library”, and to hand 11 other branches over to volunteers, the Derby Telegraph has reported.
Under the preferred option Alvaston, Pear Tree, the Derby Local Studies and Family History Library would continue to be council run, but, the libraries in Allenton, Allestree, Blagreaves, Chaddesden, Chellaston, Derwent, Mackworth, Mickleover, Sinfin, Spondon and Springwood could either be managed by the community, or closed.
Under the proposal each community-run library will be given an average annual grant of £17,500.
The council has said that the proposal will lead to “a significant reduction in the number of paid jobs” in the city’s libraries as a result of the cost-cutting, and that “if enough volunteers don’t come forward to run a particular library, that library would close”. The council also said that grants would not be sufficient to cover running costs, and “management groups would need to supplement their council grant by fundraising activities or generating some income from other sources”, according to the Guardian.
The deputy leader of Derby city council, Martin Rawson, said: “The options to be presented to cabinet are unfortunately brought about by the necessity to reduce costs as the government continues to cut the council’s budget.
“As a Labour administration, whatever option is agreed, our strong desire is to see a positive future for every library, as we know how important they are for local communities. However, to do this we will all need to pull together, volunteers will need to come forward and community groups will need to work together with library staff and local councillors to ensure that no library is forced to close, but rather delivered in a different way.”
Laura Swaffield, chief of the Library Campaign, told the Guardian that the proposals would have been a “sensational story a couple of years ago”, but that such cuts are now “getting to be the norm”.
“As always, the money saved is peanuts – just £648,000 per annum from destroying 11 much-needed local libraries. And handing them to volunteers does mean destroying them,” Swaffield said. “As always, the council blithely assumes that any fool can run a library. But it’s skilled staff that transform a room with books and PCs into a vital frontline service meeting a huge range of needs. Instead, Derby will enter a nightmare of ‘training’ and ‘supporting’ constantly changing volunteers, who in turn will have to raise funds for the building, year after year.”
Swaffield added: “Experience so far shows that [volunteer libraries] don’t work, and won’t last. But central government has cheered on a mass nationwide transfer to this rotten substitute for what was a national public library network that opened up endless possibilities to everyone, right there in the community.”
The council will open a consultation on the proposals in the autumn.