Southampton libraries to close unless volunteers come forward

Southampton libraries to close unless volunteers come forward

Five libraries in Southampton will be closed unless volunteers come forward to run them, it has been reported.

Local councilors have been consulting on the plans since last year to make budget savings and will vote on the report next week.

The report recommends saving six libraries. However, unless community-led initiatives are formed, five will be closed, along with the mobile library service.

A silent protest was held in Southampton earlier this year about the closures, which are expected to save about £285,000 per year.

Councillor Satvir Kaur, member for communities, culture and leisure said: "The consultation showed that Southampton can have an efficient library service if we implement the preferred option, with 99% of households being within a 1.5 mile distance from their closest library.

"However, the findings of the consultation also show the important role that libraries play in Southampton's communities, so a decision on whether to introduce a community package will also be made, to allow this to continue."

The news comes at the same time as local businesses in Enfield have been asked to share space with one of three libraries.

The local authority is holding an open day for businesses to consider sharing a space with Bullsmoor, Enfield Island Village and Ponders End libraries next week at the Dugdale Centre, in London Road, Enfield, according to the Enfield Independent.

The Enfield area will keep all 17 libraries open, the highest of any London borough, but make 11 of them ‘community libraries’, sharing premises with other services.

The development have come at the same time as veteran library campaigner Desmond Clarke has called on library supporters to “accept that libraries require radical and structural change to survive.”

In a blog for The Bookseller,  Clarke addressed concerns about how further 40% cuts to local authorities would affect libraries. He also bemoaned the fact that the new libraries taskforce had been set “surprisingly unambitious targets.”

 “The minister for culture Ed Vaizey MP is hoping that the new library taskforce will help authorities to create a modern library service that reverses the decline in usage over many years,” Clarke wrote. “Alas, the task force has been set surprisingly unambitious targets, such as sharing best practice, work force development and installing wifi in every library, and has been given a large bureaucratic committee under the joint DCMS and LGA umbrellas to support its work. There is little evidence as yet of any innovative thinking and radical solutions emulating from this body.”

Instead, Clarke said the taskforce should be addressing the lack of investment in materials for libraries, with annual investment in stock “at a record low” with just 6p in every pound spent on new stock.  

He added: “We must come to accept that libraries require radical and structural change to survive. That will only happen if the taskforce and the strategic agencies responsible for improving and developing the service are innovative and are prepared to address the major issues. Above all, they must develop a service that people need and want to use.”