Over half Staffs libraries to be volunteer-run

Over half Staffs libraries to be volunteer-run

Staffordshire has confirmed plans which will see more than half of its libraries passed to volunteers.

The county council's cabinet approved plans today (18th February) that will see only 20 of the county's 43 libraries remain managed and staffed by the council, while the rest will be "supported and delivered by the community, with access to formal county council support."

Children's author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons, who has previously spoken out about cuts in Staffordshire, told The Bookseller: "This is just another slide in an accelerating slide away from the comprehensive and efficient library service that was created in the 1960s. A library should have professional librarians. This is quite a grim picture."

He added: "I put this not at the feet of particular local authorities, though I wish they would try harder to maintain their services, but at the feet of Ed Vaizey and the DCMS. There is no leadership and no strategy to shape the service."

Some of the libraries will be transferred to community groups which will manage and deliver their service once they have satisfied the council's necessary conditions, while others will go into a transitional stage where they are staffed by volunteers on a day-to-day basis, with support from a member of county council staff.

The moves come after 12 months of consultation with staff and members of the public. The council has estimated that the changes will cut £1.3m from its annual budget.

Mike Lawrence, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries said: "The purpose of this consultation in the face of reducing demand was to create a service relevant and sustainable to communities for the next 10, 15 or 20 years. After refining our ideas through hundreds of hours of consultations with thousands of people, I believe we have a flexible, imaginative solution which fits the bill."

He added: "We are working with communities to let them take charge of their libraries at their pace, but it remains my intention that all these 23 libraries will be eventually be managed and delivered by the community. We will be working closely with communities to ensure they have access to the support and help they need, all of our libraries will remain part of the family, none will be cut adrift."

On top of the changes being approved, the cabinet also agreed proposals to reconsider opening hours at several libraries which will remain council managed and staffed, which have not previously been reviewed. A review of the county's mobile library service will also be carried out.