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20 Cumbrian libraries facing the axe in shake-up

A Shake-up of Cumbria’s libraries could see up to 20 small branches close and mobile libraries come off the road.

The libraries at risk include Denton Holme, Harraby and Morton in Carlisle, as well as Moorclose in Workington, and Hensingham, Kells Mirehouse in Whitehaven.

Also threatened are branches at Shap, Distington, Frizington, Gosforth, Seascale, Seaton, St Bees and Thornhill.

Officials stress that the changes are about modernisation, not saving money. They believe they can offer a better service in ‘library links’ where up to 400 popular titles can be borrowed through village shops, pubs, community centres and other outlets.

Jim Grisenthwaite, Cumbria County Council’s head of culture, said: “Some of these branch libraries are open for as little as 11.5 hours a week.

“But the library link at the Co-op in Lazonby, for example, is offering access for 70 hours a week. It’s not about bricks and mortar, it’s about providing access.”

There are five library links in Cumbria including Lazonby and Hallbankgate near Brampton. Although the stock of books is limited, borrowers can order any title held by the library service. Orders are normally delivered to the library link within a week.

The council launched a review of libraries last April in response to a decline in usage. The number of books borrowed has fallen from 3m to 2.4m in the last five years. There has been no fall at library links, however.

Mr Grisenthwaite said: “We have to modernise. We have to engage with people who don’t use the service and establish what it is that would bring them back.”

Cumbria’s libraries have escaped the cuts that have forced closures elsewhere. This year the service has been ordered to save £80,000 on its £6m budget.

Mr Grisenthwaite said: “We have not predicated this review on the need to cut, cut, cut.”

He promised that savings from branch closures would be ploughed back. That should allow an increase on the 104,000 books bought in 2009-10.

The council would co-operate with volunteers who want to take on branches facing closure or open libraries in places such as Wetheral where there is none. Mr Grisenthwaite believes that mobile libraries have outlived their usefulness. Cumbria’s three library vans have 3,000 users but 1,000 of these also use branches.

He said: “It is difficult for us to promote this as a worthwhile service when the frequency of visits is only once every six weeks.

“There are better ways of delivering a library service to people in remote areas.

“If you are infirm or housebound, we have a service where we bring the books to you.”

The council will today launch a consultation on its proposals through focus groups. If the ruling cabinet agrees in July, a full consultation will follow in the autumn with a view to making changes next year.


Have your say

Here in Seaton we have a population similar in number to that of Keswick,so not a small village.Closing the library would be a 'miss' to the young,seniors and in-betweens.Used by a toddler group,a reading group and clases from the local schools.It is used as a drop-in for the local police and councillors.
The 'library link'idea,while giving perhaps more hours of accessibility would mean providing a very limited stock,and who needs more hours to browse very little?
Requested books would take longer to arrive because of the smaller number of libraries available to satisfy the demand.
We would lose our friendly,helpful staff who know the reading tastes of their customers,and the events they organise,raising money for charity and giving folk a chance to have a 'crack'
To 'the powers that be' please give a listening ear the 'locals'

Posted by Marnie on 12 April 2011 at 13:46

your quite right joe about the two rich twits,a pity theres no socialist rich twits apart from blair and his wife,millionaire malcolm meacher,benn,mandleson,lord what a laugh prescott,and all the rest of the labour luvvies,maggie had the best idea with the poll tax joe,where everyone would have paid their share towards these ameneties,
i,m sick of paying the obscene council tax towards other peoples pensions,and other folks babbies.
blair and his cronies made todays public services for what it is today,an overbloated public sector

Posted by red white and blue on 12 April 2011 at 10:43

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