PLANS have been unveiled which could see almost all of Swindon’s libraries run by volunteer groups in four years’ time.
As Swindon Borough Council continues to try and save £80 million by 2020, it has said almost 60 per cent must be cut from the libraries' budget.
While exact details have not been decided upon, the final aim is to have the central library as the only council-funded library from the existing 15.
The remaining facilities will have to be operated by volunteer groups or other organisations if they are to stay in operation.
At this stage council chiefs believe there is enough time to find volunteers to avoid closures but have accepted there will need to be a ‘rationalisation’ of services if no-one is found at a particular site.
Library provision is one of the services which local authorities have to provide but with all residents living within nine miles and the vast majority with four, this statutory responsibility is considered fulfilled.
By 2020, around £1.5 million needs to be saved from the library budget and £300,000 of this will need to happen over the next 12 months.
It is not known where this will fall but it is not thought likely a library will need to be handed over to volunteers.
The changes mean there will be job losses in the coming years within the department, which currently employs the equivalent of 70 full time employees.
The plans will go before cabinet next Wednesday when it is likely to be agreed to begin a consultation on exactly what the future will look like.
“We have to do something about the budget so rather than just cut the service we want to speak with people about what they want going forward.
“The way people use libraries has changed over the years so we have to change to reflect that. I see this as a way bringing the library service forward.
“We have given ourselves plenty of time so for now the closure of libraries is not something we are looking at.
“If you take somewhere like Walcot, that library has been run by volunteers for six years and is very successful.”
The council has said it will offer support to volunteer groups which come forward and will offer a targeted IT service to areas where there is a need.
But even if volunteers come in, some libraries could see significant as the council is also looking to offload assets. One example would be at Wroughton where the library might have to move to the Ellendune Centre, allowing to council to sell off the existing building.
The services provided by the central library could also change depending on discussions with library users, with the possibility of finding other income revenues being considered.