A GROUP has been set up to campaign against plans to drastically cut Gloucestershire’s libary service.
Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (FoGL) - orginally Friends of Cheltenham Library -is fighting proposals by Gloucestershire County Council to cut library services by 43 per cent as part of its plans to save £108million over the next four years.
Under the proposals, opening hours and facilities will be cut at 18 libraries and 11 libraries are earmarked for closure unless volunteers come forward to take them over.
Demelza Jones of FoGL said: “These proposed cuts are amongst the most severe in the UK, and the Cotswolds area is badly affected.
“Under these proposals, libraries at Chipping Campden, Fairford, Tetbury and Winchcombe will become ‘Library Express’ branches, with opening hours reduced to three and a half days a week and a smaller range of stock, while Nailsworth, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Water will become ‘Library Links’, where a small book selection will be available on a ‘self-service’ basis only, with greatly reduced opening hours.
The county council is also proposing to scrap all mobile libraries and the ‘homelink’ service which visits residential care homes.
Ms Jones said: “ We believe that the Council’s plans are disproportionate, and will irreparably damage a well-loved, well-used and widely beneficial service for very little in the way of financial return.
“We think that proposals for volunteers to run libraries with a total absence of paid or qualified staff are unrealistic, and will result in affected libraries offering a much reduced service or even closing completely.
Councillor Antonia Noble, GCC cabinet member for libraries, said: “Community-run libraries work. At the ones already up and running in Buckinghamshire, visitor numbers have increased, opening hours have been extended and there's actually a waiting list of volunteers. We already have many people helping out in our libraries, so we know that volunteer support is out there.”
Responding to FoGLs’ criticism that he has failed to visit Buckinghamshire, which has been cited as an example of a county where volunteer-run libraries are already working, GGC leader Mark Hawthorne, said: "I'm not going to waste council taxpayer's money driving around the country to obtain information I can get by picking up the phone or reading a report, not to mention actually speaking directly to leaders of councils who have made a success of this."
For more information about FoGL visit foclibrary.wordpress.com. The group is keen to hear from other local library campaigns.