YP Letters: False economy of libraries run by volunteers

From: Martin Vaughan, Stannington Road, Sheffield.

Writer Alan Bennett has been highlighting the plight of libraries this week.

THIS is Library Week in Sheffield and across the UK. It also marks around three years since Sheffield Council replaced a professional library service provided by professional library staff at 16 branch libraries with a volunteer-run service.

The original plan was for voluntary groups to be able to raise funds to keep the libraries open independent of the council, saving the council £800,000 a year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In reality this proved wildly unrealistic, as volunteer groups such as the one in Stannington were unable to raise anything like the amount needed to keep branch libraries open, with the council saving face by raiding the health and social care budget to fund its failed volunteer-led model.

It is also clear that turning over libraries to volunteers has made the service unattractive for library users, with many choosing to no longer visit once the staff had left. Subsidies given to volunteer libraries across Sheffield could have paid for roughly a third of the library assistants sacked in 2014 to be retained, or for adult social care.

Volunteer libraries are a complete waste of time and resources in this time of austerity. Stannington and the 15 other Sheffield communities who lost library staff in 2014 deserve better.