Major cuts proposed at BIA-winning Devon Libraries

Major cuts proposed at BIA-winning Devon Libraries

More than half of Devon's libraries are facing closure under proposals being considered by the county council, according to a BBC report.

The BBC said it had obtained a briefing paper listing 28 of the 50 public libraries in Devon, including branches in Bovey Tracey, Dartmouth and Princetown, where council support is being cut. It will be left to communities to take over the running of services, or they will be shut down completely.

Devon Libraries have previously received praise for the huge range of services they offer beyond books and how they increased visitor numbers and loan figures despite earlier budget cuts, being crowned joint winner of the Library of the Year title at last year’s Bookseller Industry Awards.

The county council’s briefing paper states that the library service in Devon has to save another £1.5m due to spending cuts, on top of the £3m cut it has faced over the last three years.

The remaining 22 libraries will receive assistance from the council in areas such as book buying and management support, but community volunteers will be expected to take over much of their running. These libraries will be in key areas and are intended to become "community hubs" that incorporate information technology, adult learning classes, cafes and business support services.

Councillor Roger Croad, the Devon County Council lead on libraries, told the BBC: "This is not a closure programme, I can absolutely assure you we are committed as a county council to libraries, we think libraries are great. We just need to evolve the way we support them and move forward."

Despite his assurances, library users have voiced concern. Jean Larsson, who uses Bovey Tracey Library, said: "It's very important I think to a lot of people in Bovey, it's a busy library."

A consultation on the proposals will get under way later this month. Interested parties have three months to submit their ideas and views to Devon County Council.
This news comes after an announcement last month that 23 out of 35 libraries in North Yorkshire may close if community groups do not take them over.