Over 7,500 people have their say on a new chapter for libraries

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thousands of people have responded to public talks on the future of library services across North Yorkshire which could see some axed if community groups cannot be persuaded to run them.

Volunteers are being asked to take on the running of 20 libraries across North Yorkshire or they could face the axe as council chiefs looks to save cash.

Yesterday it was revealed over 7,500 people have responded to the consultation and bosses at North Yorkshire County Council will now go away and prepare a report and recommendations which councillors will discuss at a later date.

At present the council runs over thirty libraries and says volunteer help will be needed at all libraries, even those it is proposing to continue running, as it grapples with spending cuts which have seen its budgets cut by some £167m.

It is proposing seven libraries are kept, in Harrogate, Malton, Northallerton, Richmond/Catterick, Scarborough, Selby and Skipton, with both council library staff and volunteers working at them while five smaller libraries, at Filey, Knaresborough, Pickering, Ripon and Whitby, would be run by one council member of staff and volunteers.

North Yorkshire already has nine community libraries, seven of which were created as a result of a earlier round of spending cuts. They are staffed by volunteers, with books and support provided by the county council.

The proposals have already raised a number concerns about whether the community model will ensure the viability of libraries in the long run.

Coun John Blackie, the leader of Richmondshire District Council said yesterday: “Certainly the proposal to cut adrift 20 more libraries from North Yorkshire County Council funding is causing more than a little concern amongst the local communities who are to lose their library staff, and it is generating more than a little anger and anxiety in those communities.”

Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP, has also raised fears saying a successful community model has already been adopted at Bilton and Woodfield Community library but he is concerned if the scheme is widened more libraries would be at risk of closure.

He has written to the council seeking assurances that if the community model does not work the authority will guarantee libraries will not simply be left to close.

“We have had a tremendous response to our library consultation,” said County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for library services.

“We know that our current group of community libraries have proved to be a resounding success. Libraries are community assets and with the enormous financial pressures the County Council is under, we hope we can work in partnership with our communities, as part of our wider, stronger communities agenda, to maintain an effective and vibrant library service into the future.”

The 20 libraries that could be run by communities are: Bedale, Bentham, Boroughbridge, Colburn, Catterick/Richmond, Crosshills, Easingwold, Eastfield, Helmsley, Ingleton, Kirkbymoorside, Leyburn, Pateley Bridge, Scalby, Settle, Sherburn, Starbeck, Stokesley, Tadcaster and Thirsk.