SWINDON’S libraries will all remain open – and should have a hard-core of paid staff working in them.
That was the verdict from the councillor in charge of the town’s libraries, as she declared that each library needs have a paid staff member on the rota – and not just volunteers.
But she added that all-volunteer libraries, like Walcot, do not offer all the answers.
“I don’t want to close a single library,” she said.
“I’m sorry people are trying to peddle lies saying we want to close them. We don’t.”
She added that the use of volunteers in Walcot library had saved it from closure, but admitted it had seen a dip in use since going all-voluntary in 2009.
She also said although library use is growing, it’s still below their target.
Coun Andy Harrison (Lib Dem, Penhill) questioned the wisdom of using only unpaid staff, saying a summer reading scheme for children in Walcot saw just one child take part last year.
Allyson Jordan, head of the library service, said it was as a result of having no paid staff there.
“It relies heavily on a member of staff to help the volunteers,” she said.
Coun Foley told the meeting at the Civic Offices: “The Walcot model does work, but I’d tweak it.
“I wouldn’t want any library run entirely by volunteers.
“I believe in volunteers. I think they’ve got a lot to offer, and it should be a way forward.
“But I believe there should be a core number of hours where library staff are in the library.
“Walcot is excellent. But like everything in life, it could use a bit of a tweak now and again.”
The Adver asked afterwards how she could do that when her own report to the committee said the council is cutting back on librarians.
She said this meant only management-level staff, not front-line workers, and it could be achieved by “reallocating” staff.
She also said that libraries need to be about more than just books if they are to survive.
“Going forward, would you build a stand-alone library? I don’t think you would,” she said.
“You need to build other services in.
“Look at Old Town. It’s a cafe, an arts centre, and a library.
“That to me is the right way forward.”