Views of public sought on two-tier libraries

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YET more of the region’s libraries could be closed or have their opening hours cut after a consultation by a Yorkshire council on making its service “efficient and sustainable” was announced yesterday.

Barnsley Council said that it would be asking people in the town for their views “on the future priorities for the library service”, in a public consultation which is set to run for the next 12 weeks.

The consultation documents suggest that the 17 libraries in Barnsley will be split into two types – nine “community libraries” and seven smaller “neighbourhood libraries”, which could be run by local organisations.

Kendray Library, meanwhile, which is currently only open on three afternoons and one morning a week, would close.

A spokesman for Barnsley Council said yesterday: “Together we need to make sure we focus on the right things that matter so that the service goes from strength to strength.

“The ‘Future Libraries Strategy’ will see the council continuing to provide a comprehensive library service to all residents, while ensuring that it is more relevant, efficient and sustainable.”

This announcement comes at a time when Barnsley Council is facing almost £16m of spending cuts in the current financial year.

The consultation period on the proposed library service changes will run until Monday, July 1.

Within the consultation documents, residents are asked by the authority if they know of any “organisations, community groups, premises owners or individuals that would be interested in working with us” or if they would be interested in getting involved with the council’s library service themselves.

Part of the consultation involves commenting on the proposed changes to library opening hours.

Of the 16 libraries that would remain open, 10 would have their opening hours slashed. Only branches in Goldthorpe and Penistone would have their opening hours increased.

Proposed community libraries – in Barnsley town centre, Cudworth, Goldthorpe, Hoyland, Mapplewell, Penistone, Royston, Wombwell, and the Roundhouse in Athersley – would have a full book stock, a range of activities and access to meeting rooms.

These libraries would be open during the week, and on Saturday mornings.

It is unclear, meanwhile, whether or not those libraries downgraded to neighbourhood libraries – in Darfield, Dodworth, Grimethorpe, Monk Bretton Thurnscoe, Worsbrough and the Priory campus in Lundwood – would remain open at all, unless other organisations are found to run them.

If they do remain open, the plan is for those libraries to operate on reduced hours and also have a “smaller book stock”.

Coun Jenny Platts, Barnsley Council’s spokesman for adults and communities, said yesterday: “As the cabinet member responsible for libraries, I share a passion that many people across Barnsley have for their local library and am determined to deliver a first-class service that provides safe, accessible and friendly spaces at the heart of our borough’s communities.

“This strategy clearly sets out the aspirations Barnsley Council has for the library service over the next three years and the plan in this document is key to ensuring we achieve these.

“I would encourage people to participate in the consultation process and share with us ways in which we can work together to secure a positive future for the service.”

After a similar consultation ran in neighbouring Sheffield, it was announced that 14 of the city’s 27 community libraries would be closed unless third-party organisations could be found to take them over instead.

The city’s ruling Labour administration said that it had no choice but to make the cuts, after being forced to save £1.6m from the £6.8m library budget as part of £50m cuts in the coming year.

Sheffield Council has not yet announced which of the city’s libraries could be set to close.

Meanwhile, events will be held at Rotherham’s new central Riverside library on Tuesday, April 23, to mark its first birthday.

Activities will include art workshops, performances from pianist Graham Cowley and a writers’ drop-in session.

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