Hampshire's library service ‘still has options’

Library service ‘still has options’

Library service ‘still has options’

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

LIBRARY bosses say “all options are open” on the future of the service in Hampshire.

It comes as consultation closes on plans to shed jobs, mobile libraries and man some libraries with volunteers, with the results expected to be published in September.

But Tory recreation and heritage chief Keith Chapman could not rule out future branch closures on top of the cuts already announced.

Cllr Chapman was speaking after a task group was formed to shake up library services in the face of expected Government cut backs and changing times.

He told the Daily Echo: “Our options are completely open.

“We are looking at other things and other models.

“If we were starting a library service from square one today we would not put libraries where they are now.

“Over the years the library service put in place things that have never changed, and now we have a different way of accessing reading material.

“More and more people are choosing to download books online and they have better access to reading material than ever before because of the Internet.”

The task group will deliver its proposals in the new year. Under this year’s budget, £900,000 worth of cuts will be made to the library service which unions fear will leave the service “unsustainable”.

A total of 27 full-time posts, which include HQ staff, library managers and outreach teams, face the axe.

Three libraries will lose paid staff, including Milford-on-Sea.

Volunteers have stepped forward to run the branch to save it from closure. They will follow in the footsteps of North Baddesley and Stanmore libraries, who lost their paid staff last year.

Mobile stops are to be slashed by nearly a third. Those under threat include ten in Winchester, six in Eastleigh, three in Fareham, eight in the Romsey area, and 26 in the New Forest.

The library outreach team, which promotes the use of the public library service to playgroups, schools and community groups, is also to be disbanded.

It is hoped that volunteers can step in and deliver books to people’s homes.

Plans also include increasing library assistant hours, investing in ebooks and eAudio titles, as well as self-service technology and introducing more convenient opening hours.

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