IoW council's 'community libraries' questioned

IoW council's 'community libraries' questioned

The Isle of Wight council has said five libraries originally scheduled for closure last June will become "community libraries" and will not be closed. But campaigners have branded plans to hand the libraries over to volunteers "a cut by any other name".

IOW council said libraries in Bembridge, Brighstone, East Cowes, Niton and Shanklin will be run from buildings leased by the council at preferential rates, with free access to the council's library book stock and with broadband technology. The new arrangements will save around £500,000 a year, the council said.

Ian Anderson, the council's director for community wellbeing and social care, said: "We are delighted that residents will still be able to access local libraries across the island, but at a lesser cost to the council taxpayers. These new libraries will be able to represent their local communities and will offer residents opportunities to use the sites in
exciting new ways." Anderson praised the "tremendous enthusiasm and dedication" displayed by communities across the island.

However local cuts campaigner Mike Starke said: "My personal view is that if the libraries are to be staffed with volunteers, it's a cut by any other name. There are many other things that the council could cut, such as exorbitant wages for senior officials and consultants, long before anyone thinks of cutting vital services like libraries."

Starke added that it "seems to be the most vulnerable people who are suffering", and pointed to the irony of handing Niton library over to volunteers, when it was just "a stone's throw" from the burial place of Edward Edwards, a 19th-century pioneer of the public library service.