Fife Council’s executive committee has voted through plans to close 16 libraries next spring.
The committee made the “tough decision” to close 16 out of the county's 51 libraries to ensure the service is “sustainable” and “suited to customer need,” the BBC has reported. The plans were proposed by the Fife Cultural Trust which runs the library services.
The affected libraries are Abbeyview, Bowhill, Colinsburgh, Crail, Crossgates, East Wemyss, Falkland, Freuchie, Glenwood, Kinghorn, Lundin, Links, Markinch, Pittenweem, Pitteuchar, Thornton and Townhill.
Leader of Fife Council, councillor David Ross, said: “Libraries are an important and valuable service for our communities across Fife but we need to acknowledge that the way people use them is changing.
“This comes at a time when local authorities are up against unprecedented financial challenge. We have a responsibility to decide how best to respond to all of these changes and work with Fife Cultural Trust to make sure our library service is as sustainable and suited to customer need as possible.”
He said: “Overall, more than two thirds of the respondents of a questionnaire understood why these proposals had been made and nearly half of those taking part agreed with them."
However, according to Fife Today, although the questionnaire showed opinion was “fairly evenly split on the proposal overall”, 61% of library users disagreed with the plan.
The move will see more than 25 full-time library staff lose their jobs - 15 of them frontline workers. It takes the number of libraries in Fife from 51 to 35.
The closures and staff cuts will achieve £571,000 in savings.
Library campaigner, Bryce Sutherland said the decision was “totally deplorable” and that the council had not appreciated how greatly the closures would affect the lives of the residents.
He said: “Delaying the process would have made a difference because I don’t think a lot of the communities were actively involved – it has all been rushed through. With proper community engagement perhaps viable alternatives would have been raised.”
North East Fife MP Stephen Gethins said: “[The] decision will have a significant impact on so many communities. The young, elderly and unemployed will be most affected and that’s the real tragedy. Libraries, as the campaigns have shown, are about more than books; they’re about providing access to education, information and social interaction for all generations.”
Yesterday, annual figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) revealed that 106 libraries closed in the UK in financial year to April 2015, with 549 closing since 2010.