THE head of the Government’s Library Task Force visited Swindon on Tuesday to discuss the proposals being put forward regarding the town’s libraries.
Earlier this month it was revealed the library budget is set to be slashed by almost 60 per cent, with £1.5 million needing to be saved.
As a result, a consultation has begun on proposals which could eventually see all of the town’s 15 facilities run by volunteers with the exception of the central library.
If people cannot be found by 2020 to take over the running then a number could close down.
The role of the task force is to ensure there is good practice within the library service and the CEO Kathy Settle came to Swindon to speak with library users concerned at the proposal as well as council chiefs.
She said: “It is our role to support all the public libraries in England and make sure they are fit for the 21st century.
“I have come down to find out first-hand what is happening in Swindon. Part of our role is to have conversations and offer advice because we have seen different models from elsewhere and other approaches to running libraries.
“We can therefore share that knowledge. I understand the pressure local authorities are under financially but what’s important is the council engage with users. They have a legal requirement to provide a comprehensive library service.”
Before meeting representatives from the council, Kathy spoke with a number of campaigners, including Shirley Burnham from the Save Old Town Library group.
Prior to the meeting she set out a number of things they want the taskforce to ensure the council do before moving forward with the library strategy.
This includes developing an evidenced based approach to assessing whether groups, such as parish councils are suitable for running the facilities and creating a formal projection of how many children rely on libraries.
Shirley said: “We want the taskforce to insist that Swindon Borough Council formulate and publish a plan B , to insure against any risk that their proposals for libraries might conflict with statutory duties or any risk that the proposals might be unachievable in the short and longer term.
“We ensure that this visit by the Taskforce to Swindon not be treated as a mere fact-finding mission to be buried in a future report, but welcomed as an opportunity to work with the council to promote mechanisms that will safeguard a high standard of library provision in Swindon that has existed to date.”
Council leaders have said no decisions have been made on library provision in Swindon and are currently speaking with users before publishing the strategy later this year.