Threats to Barnet library service

Threats to Barnet library service

Barnet's library service could be reduced to a fraction of its current size if the council go ahead with new proposals.

The London authority, home to Friern Barnet library which was occupied by protestors when it was slated for closure, is trying to cut £2.85m from its library budgets in the next six years.

It has now released a series of potential options for the future of the service, with one proposal relocating a number of the council's 16 libraries and significantly reducing their size, while focusing services on four key libraries. This favoured option would also see library staff hours cut by half, with users able to access the library using a PIN system, which the council compares to Scandinavian "open libraries".

Other options would see some buildings closed and rented out for other use, while a third would involve handing over the running of some libraries to community groups.

The council is already planning two new libraries in the borough which will continue as planned.

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the children education libraries safeguarding committee, said: “My own preference is option one which keeps the widest possible network but it will be up to the committee to decide after public consultation… Across London the model for providing library services is changing. Barnet currently has fewer volunteers than other comparable boroughs and I would like to see us improve in this area.”

Councillors will consider the proposals before they go to a public consultation.

Meanwhile in Lincolnshire, the council is expected to make a new decision on its own library service in February next year. The council had planned huge cuts across the county, however, campaigners forced a judicial review on the decision, which saw the council's plans overturned.

Members of the public have a week left to contact the council with suggestions for altering the service before it considers its options.

In Wales, Powys County Council has taken the decision to slash opening hours at its libraries, including the library in historic book town Hay-on-Wye, in an attempt to save £350,000 in the next financial year.