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Issue 320 – 20% reduction in library opening hours?

FROME Library could face a 20% reduction in its opening hours from October, if proposals are agreed by full council at Somerset County Council this week. Frome Library has also been considered to become a self service unit, one of 10 across the county, which would be implemented in 2012 if approved.

The county council has been running a consultation into library services in order to reduce the library service’s budget by 25%.
If Somerset County Council agree to the reduction in opening hours, there will be consultation with library users, local communities and parish / town councils to establish the most appropriate pattern of opening hours for each library.
24/7 library services will continue: these include online registration, access to the catalogue and to electronic materials including e-audio books, renewal of loans, requests and enquiry service, all accessed at libraries.
Regarding services to people who are housebound, the county council says, “We are currently discussing ways of developing this service with the WRVS, who deliver the “Books-on-wheels” service for us. We recognise that there are likely to be several people who will be unable to travel to a library after the closure of their local library and after the reduction in the number of mobile libraries from six to two.”
Somerset County Council’s cabinet member for community, Christine Lawrence said, “People understood the need to make savings, but thought the greatest impact would be felt in rural areas. They wanted to see the savings shared out among all libraries, including those in the biggest towns.”
Opening hours could be cut by around 20 per cent across all the libraries in Somerset, with users asked to make voluntary donations to help fund the library service.
The latest proposals also see six libraries across the county remaining at risk of closure later this year. Those libraries would be some of the smallest in the county – Porlock, Highbridge, Watchet, Sunningdale (Yeovil), Bishops Lydeard and Bruton.
A further five libraries could face an uncertain future in 2012 with an extra year given to local communities to take them over.
The county council says that it plans to increase spending on books saying, “We plan to improve the book fund from its current low level, increasing by about £200,000; this will probably be in two stages in 2011/12 & 2012/13.”