Libraries in 'lose, lose situation'

PUBLISHED: 10:00 22 January 2012

Cllr Joe Leach with residents and school children who formed a petition when the library was threatened with closure.

Cllr Joe Leach with residents and school children who formed a petition when the library was threatened with closure.

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A SOMERSET county councillor has said a recent judgement reinstating library services has resulted in 'a lose, lose situation'.

The judicial review overturned the council’s decision to make changes to libraries - including closing Highbridge’s facility - to cut costs, because it did not meet European diversity legislation.

But councillor John Woodman said the plans could have made way for more vibrant libraries across Somerset.

He said once the council’s grants were taken away by the Government many services and departments had to make cuts to prevent it from going into administration.

Somerset County Council had to save £1.34million in library services and its plan was to pass the least-used libraries into community hands.

Cllr Woodman said: “By doing this we could also include writing clubs, book clubs and family sessions and it would have saved us money.

“The new book budget for the libraries was zero and that is why our libraries appeared tired. If we saved that money we could have put it into the book fund.”

The council also had plans to integrate digital resources into the service, where readers would be able to download books onto their iPads or Kindles.

Cllr Woodman said: “The world is changing and we need to change with it.

“We do not have that opportunity now or the new book budget and we have to go back to the old system.

“I think it’s a lose, lose situation and as a result the library service is in the same position and it’s not delivering.”

But an investment of £600,000 in technology to provide equipment which will enable library users to self-serve when checking books in and out of the library has been confirmed.

Cllr Woodman said: “The judge said our plan would have delivered a comprehensive service to the whole of Somerset, but we did not meet with the European diversity legislation.”

The council has now approved the reinstatement of previously reduced opening hours in 23 libraries and funding for 11 libraries that had been planned to end by April this year will also continue.

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