Milestone as libraries handed over to communities

The final element of a scheme to hand over libraries to communities to prevent the sites from being forced to close has been approved.

Community groups will take over the running of six libraries on May 1 as part of a move by North Yorkshire County Council to transfer the running of many of its 42 libraries to volunteers in a bid to counter £69m in Government cuts.

Councillors rubber-stamped final plans for the scheme this week, with the go-ahead being given for six community-run libraries in Ayton, Barlby, Bilton, Embsay, Gargrave, and Great Ayton, after volunteer groups presented detailed business plans demonstrating the feasibility of the scheme.

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However, Humnanby Library failed to produce a viable plan and the county council revealed the village, near Scarborough, which is one of the largest in England, would be served by a mobile library from April, although other options are currently being explored.

Coun Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s executive member for the library and information service, said: “This is a tremendous achievement by people across the county who rightly said that their libraries are a hugely valuable and much-loved resource. The way in which they responded to the challenge of producing robust business plans, of mobilising support and organising volunteers, is a remarkable feat. Although they received support at every step of the way, at the end of the day it was their hard work and determination which brought about this result. They deserve the heartfelt thanks of everyone.”

Masham library, one of eight having funding pulled from it, with 14 more having their budgets slashed by 30 per cent, was handed over to the Masham Volunteer Trust last month and community libraries are also up and running in Grassington and Hawes.

Earlier this month the Yorkshire post revealed opening hours at Malton library, which is planned to be merged with Norton library and now incorporates the town’s Tourist Information Centre, will increase from 40 hours to 46 per week.

But despite Malton bucking the trend, opening hours in many branches are set to be cut and the county council also plans to remove 36 posts from its 177 full-time library staff.