The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has called on Westminster City Council to halt proposed cuts to the library budget of £750,000 a year "until a proper public consultation has been carried out".
The plans will see the equivalent of 17 and a half full-time staff roles lost.
In an open letter, Nick Poole, the c.e.o. of librarians body CILIP, has written to Westminster Council chief executive Charlie Parker with concerns about the proposals and the impact it will have on communities and the local economy.
Poole expressed his "profound concern" about the proposals, arguing that the libraries in Westminster are “some of the best in the country, helping 140,000 people to set up a new business, [and] tackle social isolation and exclusion". He added that the libaries are "cultural beacons in their communities providing space for exhibitions and performances, access to reading and unique archives".
"I am profoundly concerned about the impact of these budget reductions on the quality of services the public expect and deserve. Without question the Council should consult with the public and consider their views carefully", Poole said.
In the letter Poole sets out the case for properly resourced and staffed libraries, arguing: “They play a crucial role providing access to information and knowledge, supporting small businesses and employment, improving health and well being and providing everyone with opportunities for learning and developing new skills.”
He raises specific concerns about the apparent lack of public consultation about the impact of this budget reduction and seeks assurance that public consultation will take place and proposals will not be confirmed until the views of residents have been fully considered.
A petition has been launched urging the council to rethink the proposals.
Earlier this month, the government defended its attitude towards the widespread closure of libraries in England during a debate in the House of Lords, with Lord Ashton asserting that he does “recognise the value of the service to local communities”. He also added that the government was currently investigating closures in four local authority areas: Harrow, Southampton, Lambeth and Lancashire.
He said complaints were assessed on an individual basis, but added: “If there is serious doubt a library service fails to offer a comprehensive local service this government will not hesitate to order an enquiry.”
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