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Threatened libraries likely to be staffed by volunteers in Lincolnshire

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: November 21, 2013

Threatened libraries likely to be staffed by volunteers in Lincolnshire
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Fresh proposals for the future of Lincolnshire libraries will be revealed this week – but campaigners expect they will still include a push for a volunteer-run service.

Lincolnshire County Council announced plans in June to close 32 libraries as part of a bid to save around £2 million from its budget.

But a public consultation on the issue showed the move was highly unpopular, with more than 23,000 people signing petitions against it.

The council has now tweaked the plans in a bid to take account of public concerns and will publish them on Friday, November 22. Councillors will be formally briefed on them at 2pm that day.

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Key issues which the council is now considering include:

Looking to provide more stops on mobile library routes

Increasing the amount of professional advice community-run facilities would receive

Extending opening times

Inviting a second wave of community bids

An extraordinary meeting of the full council has now been called by five Labour members to discuss the new proposals.

Save Lincolnshire Libraries spokesman Wendy Wainwright said that, pending full details, it remains a case of "wait and see".

She said: "They want everything to be volunteer-run and because we know what they actually want to do it will be interesting to see what they come back with.

"There's a huge difference between a voluntary group running libraries and a network of libraries with professional people running it."

The council says it is giving communities the chance to take over the affected libraries or create their own, with professional support from the council and £5,000 yearly grants.

So far there have been 42 expressions of interest in running services.

Of these, 24 existing libraries – including Boultham and Birchwood, in Lincoln, and Nettleham – have each received one or more initial bids.

And seven have come from communities that don't have existing libraries, for example Navenby, currently served by a mobile van.

The 15 council-staffed libraries, including Lincoln Central Library, will remain council-run.

And the council has said half of the 280 mobile stops which are under threat will most likely be saved.

The revised library proposals are to be explained and debated at tomorrow's council meeting instead of the informal briefing initially planned.

The executive will make the final decision on the future of libraries on December 3.

Labour member Rob Parker, who represents Lincoln West, said: "The library service should be protected as much as possible but there could be some innovative ideas among the expressions of interest that we don't have access to at the moment.

"The future of libraries is an important matter and at the informal meeting that had been proposed councillors didn't have a vote.

"Now the council is summoning members to a formal meeting and we can give the executive a clear steer.

"We cannot fetter their judgment, we cannot say scrap the proposals in light of public opinion or long-term sustainability, but there will be a vote and we can urge the executive to take these things into account."

His party colleague, Phil Dilks, who represents Deeping St James, said: "Regardless of what they say, we are talking about library closures.

"Even if run by well-meaning volunteers they would be a series of book swap-shops.

"Google will give 100,000 answers in a second but a librarian will give you the right one."

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2 comments

  • Pete67  |  November 22 2013, 1:20PM

    If these places are to be run by volunteers surely they cost a lot less to run so why is this saving NEVER going to be passed on to the people who are paying the wages to start with - the council tax payers?

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  • InsideStory  |  November 21 2013, 6:39PM

    The government want everyone to be volunteers so will it ever be possible for parliament to be fully staffed by volunteers.No i didn't think so they wouldn't give up their expenses and perks that easy .

    |   3

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