Ten libraries could be closed across Hampshire with others having their opening hours reduced after the local authority announced plans to slash £1.76m from the service’s budget.
Hampshire County Council has launched a 10-week consultation on the proposals, saying it faces an £80m shortfall in its budget by April 2021 while demand for services such as social care continues to rise.
The council’s executive member for recreation and heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, said the £1.76m cut represented 16% of the overall library service budget.
Hampshire said its preferred option was closing up to 10 facilities, bringing the number of council-run libraries down to 38, resulting in 41 full-time job losses. The remaining facilities would see a 15% cut in their opening hours.
A second option would see all 48 libraries remain open but have their hours reduced by an average of 25%, leading to 46 job losses.
Both options would save around £1m, with the remaining money coming through "efficiencies", additional income generation and the council withdrawing support for four community-run libraries which could also close if a new model is not found.
Ten libraries judged least efficient, which do not include the borough’s Discovery Centres, are being considered for closure: the New Forest’s Blackfield and Lyndhurst, Chineham and South Ham in Basingstoke, Elson and Lee-on-the-Solent in Gosport, Emsworth in Havant, Fair Oak in Eastleigh, Horndean in East Hampshire and Odiham in Hart.
Woodward said: "We remain absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service, fit for the future, that responds to a new generation of library customers. Therefore, we feel the right thing to do is focus the resources we have on where they will be of most benefit—to make the library service relevant in a way that will improve the literacy, life chances and wellbeing of Hampshire residents."
He added: "The proposals in the consultation have been carefully thought through and offer a genuine choice, including options for the community to step in to run independent community-managed libraries. As well as increasing income and improving business efficiency, the consultation includes proposals for changes to the way services are delivered. This includes options to close up to 10 council-run libraries and reduce opening hours in others. It also considers exploring better ways to deliver library services in deprived communities."
Writer James McConnachie is using his Twitter account to ask Hampshire authors to sign an open letter criticising the closure plans.
The consultation closes on 18th March, with a decision due in the summer.