A CAMPAIGN has been launched to keep library services as they are following the announcement many will have to be run by volunteers.

Last month, Swindon Borough Council said the library budget will be cut by nearly 60 per cent in four years.

As a result, the 14 libraries will need to be run by volunteers or they could be closed with only central library staying in council control.

However, many are opposed to the move, saying even if volunteers take over the service will suffer.

On Tuesday, campaigners gathered outside the Old Town library to collect signatures from those using the facility.

Shirley Burnham is one of those who helped the launch the Save Swindon Libraries campaign.

She said: “We are amazed at the number of people who have signed the petition. The council are between a rock and a hard place as far as money is concerned.

“On the other hand we have noticed the ideas being put forward are similar to those put forward 2008 so we are not wholly convinced austerity is the only consideration.

“We feel the administration may have a mind-set which does not value the smaller libraries and discriminates against people who are not able to get to the central library.

“We hope very much that the council will listen to everyone's view on libraries in the town.”

Jane Milner-Barry, who is also a part of the campaign, said: “Libraries are important to all people at all stages of life.

“Swindon will be much the poorer if it loses its libraries. A volunteer run service is no substitution for a professional, joined-up one.”

Last week, the budget for next year was approved which included £300,000 worth of cuts to libraries but both Labour and Liberal Democrats have come out against the move.

Labour Leader Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) said: “There are already over 200 people who have signed an online petition and lots have already signed this one,

“This demonstrates the strength of feeling. People want to see their libraries maintained by the council. I hope the Conservatives listen.”

Stan Pajak (Lib Dem, Eastcott) said: “When you go out knocking on doors the one thing people say they do not want to lose is libraries. These days they provide so much more than just books for people.

“Swindon is lucky in its library provision and we are all concerned this is under threat.”

Council chiefs have said they do not believe the plans will lead to library closures as they have started discussions with relevant bodies early on but say with cuts £50 million in cuts needed by 2020 this is a move which is needed.

Speaking last month, Councillor Garry Perkins (Con, Haydon Wick), the cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “What we are going to do is start to have a conversation about what future library prevision will look like.

“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.”