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Shropshire's libraries 'are not under threat from e-reading'

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The future of Shropshire's libraries is bright – despite growing opposition from ebooks and television. That's the view of the county's head of libraries Michael Lewis.

He inisists that libraries will not die because everyone has got a Kindle and predicted that none of the county's libraries will close in the next few years. He said they would continue to play a relevant role in their communities.

It comes despite research from public services union Unison, revealing that 439 libraries have closed across Britain since 2010 with another 280 now under threat.

Mr Lewis, who took up his post at the start of the year, said libraries would have to evolve.

And he said he wanted to make the county's library service "more visible".

He said: Shropshire is a bit behind the times in engaging with customers and moving the service forward.

"I want Shropshire to be the best library service it can be. It does have a future.

"The library is not dead just because everyone's got a Kindle. I've still got a pile of paperbacks by the side of my bed and I do read them.

"The Kindle will not kill Shropshire libraries but we need to move with the times.

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"I'm very passionate about where I want it to go and we always come to the same conclusion that we want them to stay and we want them to be better.

"At the moment I think libraries are invisible and we need to make them visible."

A survey of nearly 2,000 library staff by Unison revealed increasing charges, dwindling opening hours and shrinking staffing levels.

Some libraries are also placing limits on services such as internet use, which they say is problematic for people who rely on library access to search and apply for jobs and benefits.

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Heather Wakefield, Unison head of local government, said: "Hundreds of libraries have been closed, and those that remain are cutting their opening hours, their staffing levels, and some of the services they provide.

"Volunteers cannot be relied on to replace trained skilled library staff – the library service is being run into the ground.

"For more than 100 years libraries have been at the heart of our communities.

"They've inspired people to learn, helped parents on low incomes get their children interested in books, made it possible for people without a home computer to apply for work, and reached out to give elderly people a sense of community. But all this is now at risk."

Mr Lewis said that one of the ways the library can remain relevant and viable is to work with other organisations in order to provide other services.

He used Oswestry Library, where the council has opened a customer service "hub", as an example of the way forward.

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