THE futures of five Southampton libraries threatened with closure have been secured.

Southampton City Council has announced a list of community groups who will take over the running of the libraries.

As previously reported the librarys' futures were at risk when it was announced they would be losing their funding from the city council.

Cobbett Road Library, Burgess Road Library, Thornhill Library, Millbrook Library and Weston Library all were at risk.

But now a team of newly formed community groups and long established organisations will continue running the libraries.

Burgess Road Library will be headed by the Burgess Road Library Action Group - runin partnership with local-based charity Christ Church Southampton.

Thornhill Library will be operated by newly formed local charity group Thornhill Community Library.

The YMCA, a local community charity that has been serving the city since 1878, will provide a community library in the new unit when it is completed in Weston, while in the meantime services will continue from the portacabin.

Cobbett Road Library will be run by two not for profit organisations Social Care in Action (SCA) and Unexpected Places in partnership with the Friends of Cobbett Road Library.

In Millbrook, the library resources will be moved into the Solent NHS Trust Pickles Coppice Children’s Centre where the Sure Start Service is based.

Plans were approved by Labour civic chiefs to stop running all of the facilities by April when community groups were invited to take the five buildings on.

The plans could save the council £286,000 a year, but cost six jobs.

It has proven controversial with opponents fearing groups will not be able to realistically run libraries forcing their closure.

Following a 2015 review of library services, Southampton City Council’s Cabinet voted to secure the future of five of its community libraries by seeking new operators.

Community and charitable groups were invited to make expressions of interest to the council and put forward proposals to take the libraries forward.

Now the decisions have been approved for five of the libraries by the council.

Work will now begin to transfer key assets across to the selected organisations.

The new community libraries will open for the similar number of hours as before but opening times may differ and the details have yet to be finalised.

Council cabinet member for communities, culture and leisure, Councillor Satvir Kaur, said: “Last year we made a commitment to transform the library service in Southampton and keep all library buildings open.

"This announcement shows we have delivered on this commitment and marks a major milestone in our journey to ensure a sustainable future for all library buildings in our city.

"Southampton City Council has worked with local communities, organisations and partner agencies to ensure a long-term sustainable future for our libraries.

"Unlike many other local authorities, despite severe budget cuts, no library buildings will be closing in Southampton.

"I would like to personally thank everyone who expressed an interest and engaged with us during this process, though most notably local communities for working together with organisations to ensure best outcomes.

"We remain committed to these community hubs and will continue to work with the new operators.

"I am excited about their potential and ability to enhance these community facilities to enrich the communities they service.”

But independent councillor for Redbridge ward Cllr Andrew Pope, who had previously threatened to take council leaders to judicial review, said: "The council should be running libraries.

"Having various community groups running them hasn't worked in other parts of the country.

"It doesn't cost much to run them and the council should continue."

Thornhill Community Library plans to keep the library open for the local community with the help of local volunteers from Monday, April 18.

They hope to keep it open for 12 hours per week and continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities, plus encourage the local community to suggest and get involved in additional activities.

Chair of the Trustees Revd Duncan Jennings said: "We see this as an opportunity for the people of Thornhill to work together and enable the Community Library to grow in significance and enrich even further the life of our wonderful community.”

Burgess Road Library Action Group plan to provide a service using local volunteers.

The group will keep the library open for 26 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities.

This is a partnership with Christ Church who have offered to meet all the costs associated with the building operation and will also relocate their offices from Portswood into the library building.

They also plan to carry out some refurbishment and improvement works on the building and to have the new arrangements in place from Monday, April 25.  

Liz Weston from the action group said: “While we are saddened to see the library being dropped from the City Council's directly-managed network, we are pleased to have been given the opportunity to keep the facilities open to all members of the local community, through the kind support of volunteers and Christ Church Southampton.

“The library is an essential hub in the community, loved by many and a lifeline to those who use the computers, books and services it provides.”

The YMCA has come forward to run the new library in Weston with the support of local people.

The library will open for 12 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities.

Currently the library service is being provided from a temporary until in front of Chamberlayne Leisure Centre. A new library unit is being provided as part of a residential development on Weston Lane. Once this is completed the YMCA will move in to operate the library from the dedicated unit and the temporary arrangement outside Chamberlayne Leisure centre will come to an end. 

YMCA area director Andrew Simpson said: “We are delighted to extend our relationship with the community of Weston by supporting this important service.

“We will be offering a library service as well as a range of different services in partnership with other agencies to establish a community hub for all to enjoy.”

Millbrook Library in Kendall Avenue will be moved to Pickles Coppice which is a Solent NHS Trust property in Windermere Avenue. Pickles

The library will be located in the Sure Start room, which will open for at least 12 hours per week.

A public internet computer will also be available for people to use in this new location. The Sure Start staff are keen to welcome local volunteers to get involved to be able to extend the opening hours with the new arrangement in place during April.

Solent NHS Trust chief operating officer Alex Whitfield said: “This is a very exciting development for Pickle’s Coppice and we are delighted to support the relocation of the library into the building.”

Social Care in Action (SCA) will run Cobbett Road Library in partnership with Unexpected Places.

They will be working with the Friends of Cobbett Road Library in an advisory and supportive way.

The library will open for 26 hours per week and will continue to provide access to the public computers, books and other resources and activities.

The aim is for this arrangement to be in place from early June and until then the building will continue to be run by the city council.

Ruth Marriott, CEO of SCA, said: “SCA is extremely pleased to be working with UP, Friends of Cobbett Road Library and the local community. I think this is a great opportunity to not only retain the popular library in the community but use it as a base to develop other community based activities. SCA are looking forward to working with local people to make a difference.”

To help customers during the transition, anyone that takes a book out of any of the affected libraries after Saturday, March 5, will be given more time to return it.

The books will still remain part of the whole city wide collection with many of the library systems remaining the same. People will still be able to reserve and renew books in all the libraries and access similar services across all of the sites. Free internet access will remain in all libraries and customers need not change their library card to use their local library.