Last thing we want is to close libraries, says Shropshire councillor
Closing libraries is the last thing Shropshire Council wants to do, a councillor has claimed.
Steve Charmley, the council's cabinet member for business and culture, was speaking in the wake of the cabinet voting to offload 12 of the county's smaller libraries to community groups.
Currently community groups are being sought to ensure libraries at Albrighton, Bayston Hill, Broseley, Cleobury Mortimer, Church Stretton, Ellesmere, Gobowen, Much Wenlock, Pontesbury, Shawbury, Shifnal and Wem have a future.
The management of Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch libraries are set to be reviewed. The proposals are intended to save £1.1 million from the authority's £2.9 million libraries budget.
Councillor Charmley insisted the council's aim is to ensure the county's libraries remain open.
He said: "The last thing we want to be doing is closing libraries. It's not the way we want to do it. Closing them would be the easy option.
"We've pulled the libraries into two pots, we've got the bigger libraries in market towns who we are looking to work with community groups and other organisations, and the smaller libraries
"A good example of one of our bigger libraries is Oswestry library which has become a hub and it does demonstrate that libraries aren't just about books anymore. We're moving more of our customer service points into the libraries which is driving increased use."
Councillor Charmley said one of the advantages of smaller libraries being run within the community are extended opening hours.
One example is Highley which is no longer run by Shropshire Council and is open between 9am and 9pm four days a week.
Previously, the council came under fire from campaigners as to why they had not considered a trust taking over all the libraries. George Candler, the council's director of commissioning, said: "Each community is different. Gobowen has different priorities to say Albrighton.
"At all stages each individual library has had to engage with the community it serves. We believe that makes for richer engagement and a better outcome, and that each community."
Councillor Charmley said he wanted to change the perception that the facilities were being "dumped on" town councils and organisations.
He said consulting on the future of libraries had proved useful. He said: "For example more than 200 people in Broseley engaged with us which is great." The hope is for a community organisation or group to come forward to take on Shawbury which has so far had no groups express an interest. The six-week consultation on Shawbury library begins on November 9.
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