A PLAN by Swindon Borough Council to transfer most of the town’s libraries over to volunteers has been described as a low point for the service.
Earlier this week, it was revealed 14 of the 15 libraries will no longer be funded by the local authority by 2020 and unless someone else takes them over they could close.
But the move has been slammed by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which has urged the council to reconsider.
Speaking to the Guardian, Nick Poole, the chief executive of CILIP, urged the council needed to reconsider its position.
Although council chiefs say the reach of the central library means the legal obligation to provide a service is fulfilled, this has been questioned.
Nick said: “I fear that we are heading for a new low. If councils are unable to meet their legal obligations to provide statutory library services, HM government has a duty to step in and intervene to protect people’s rights.
“Cutting qualified staff and local services flies in the face of public interest and runs completely counter to the ambition for local economic growth, prosperity, healthy, happy families and children who can reach their potential.
“We urge the council to revisit its plans, and to recognise that properly staffed and run libraries are an investment that will be crucial to this vision.”
The claim from the chief comes on National Library Day and follows the news Swindon’s libraries budget is set to be cut from £2.6 million by £1.5 million over the next four years.
When brought in effect it will leave the central library as the only publicly funded one in Swindon.
The move has been condemned in a number of quarters, with Save Swindon Libraries tweeting the move was a ‘travesty’.
But the council says it is confident of finding the volunteers needed to come in and says with £80 million in savings needed by 2020, a new approach to services is needed.
He said: “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.”