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Library hours cut due to lack of volunteers
A FLAGSHIP community library has had to reduce its opening hours due to a lack of volunteers.
Walcot Charity Shop and Library, in Sussex Square, is now closed on Saturday mornings.
The library and shop, which is entirely run by volunteers, was set up in April 2009 after the library was threatened with closure.
Councillors Peter Mallinson and Nick Martin backed a project to combine the shop with the library in one building. The venture ploughs all the cash it raised back into the community and regularly makes grants to local groups.
Initially the library opened every morning apart from Wednesday and Sunday, but now it has been decided to stop the Saturday opening too.
This week the doors were also closed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Coun Mallinson, who is also chairman of the Walcot Community Charity Shop and Library charity, said he took the decision to stop opening on Saturdays to relieve the volunteers.
He said: “I just felt it wasn’t fair on my volunteers.
“I’m not prepared to work them to the point where we start to lose them.
“We are without doubt the only charity shop in Swindon that does not pay any members of staff. If we had a bigger pool of volunteers we could open for more hours or more days, but the reality is we have a set number of people who are our core of volunteers.”
A recent petition submitted to the council by Libraries campaigner Shirley Burnham urged the council not to touch the libraries during its budget cuts and also criticised the replacement of librarians with unpaid volunteers.
She said: “Libraries function much better when paid staff are there for the core hours at least.
“It seems to me the council is on rather shaky ground by using Walcot as an example of the desired way to go, but then again they haven’t given the figures as to how Walcot is performing and how successful it is.
“A library without staff is just a room full of second hand books.”
But Coun Mallinson said the volunteers at Walcot Library felt hurt and unappreciated because of the petition.
Coun Fionuala Foley, cabinet member for libraries, has insisted that no libraries will close as part of the budget cuts. She said: “My vision for libraries going forward is that there will always be a core number of hours modelled on Old Town library where staff are present and then supported by volunteers there to help people.”
Anyone interested in helping out at Walcot Charity Shop and Library should contact Coun Mallinson on 01793 639076 or 07554 000 590.