LIBRARY users have welcomed news that a much loved facility will retain its current opening hours – at least in the short term.
The Old Town Library is located in the Arts Centre, which was this week leased to HQ Theatres, as part of the council’s leisure and culture programme.
HQ Theatres also runs the Wyvern Theatre.
The library is still run by the council and had previously provided staff for 18 hours a week, with the library also being accessible for a further 20 hours when the Arts Centre was staffed.
However, it was feared once HQ Theatres took charge the library would only be able to open for the 18 hours the council provided staff. Now it has been confirmed the library will maintain its current hours until at least the results of a consultation on library services are discussed in June.
Shirley Burnham, of the Save Old Town Library Group, said while it appears to only be a short term let-up, it is welcome.
She said: “When I told the library users they were all delighted. “It is good news as the library is very popular and this is at least a break from what we were facing.
“It is nice to have some good news to tell people for once even if it is only guaranteed for a few months. “When we started campaigning for the library we used to have respite of a few years at a time but now we have to make do with a few months, but anything is good.”
To maintain the hours, the council will be providing extra staffing but council leaders say due to financial pressures it will need to be reviewed.
Coun Keith Williams, (Con, Shaw), the cabinet member for transport and leisure who is responsible for libraries, said: “We know Old Town Library is valued by the local community and we felt it was important to keep the number of library hours as they were while the new arrangements for the Arts Centre are ironed out.
“We also felt that it would not be appropriate to make a decision on the opening hours of Old Town Library until cabinet had examined the results of the consultation on the wider draft library strategy.”
The news has also been welcomed by ward councillor Nadine Watts (Lab, Old Town).
She said: “The potential of the library opening hours reducing has been a significant concern of Old Town library users and I have repeatedly lobbied the council to do all it can to retain the same opening hours at the library.
“I am pleased the council has managed to do this, albeit only definitely until June, and I would urge them to find a way to keep the library open for 38 hours per week on a permanent basis.”
The draft library strategy and an online questionnaire can be viewed at www.swindon.gov.uk/ librarystrategy The consultation on the strategy will run until 5pm on April 14 and people can email views to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Coun Keith Williams, Library Strategy Consultation, Cabinet Office, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, SN1 2JH.