THE man behind volunteer-run Walcot Library believes the changes to the service being proposed by Swindon Borough Council are achievable but it will require people to come forward.

Former councillor Peter Mallinson has run the library, and the attached charity shop, for six years and recently overseen a move to new premises.

Along with a team of up to ten volunteers, he ensures the facility is open at least five days a week.

Earlier this month, the council began a consultation of future library provision, with a need to cut the budget by nearly 60 per over the next four years.

It is being proposed that 14 of the 15 libraries should be volunteer run with only the town centre facility being run by the council.

There has been wide-spread condemnation of the move but Peter believes if they can make it work in Walcot, then it can work anywhere.

“If people want their libraries to stay open then the service user must be prepared to help, not just wring their hands and say it’s not fair,” he said.

“The council are not doing this out of spite, it’s because they can’t afford them and have a duty not to run a debt.

“If the councillors and users got together and said if little old Walcot can do it, why can’t we do it?

“The only thing different is we did it six years ago so now have the expertise and have the knowledge base to answer any queries.”

He accepts there may have to be some changes to certain libraries, such as the hours they are open, but says the model in Walcot can work.

Firstly, the organisation is officially a registered charity which means it gets relief on business rates.

The volunteers are increasingly taking on more duties so the amount being spent on librarians is falling, although Peter says some things, such as accessing databases, needs to be done by a professional.

The charity shop also operates out of the library which not only means some of the money can go towards good causes, but some of the costs can be met.

Some of the major costs, such as the building lease, are still being met by the council but Peter believes it is possible to find the savings required

He said: “If the council support the service with the other 40 per cent and let volunteers run it with that then it will work.

“The absolute ideal would be some income generator, such as the charity shop which we have here, and then you can use that money to do all sorts of things.

“All the income we get is from the shop. We don’t have any paid staff. From that we are able to help people who need it.

“Of course things might have to be reduced but it is better to have something small and then grow it from there rather than lose it all together.”