AS VOLUNTEERS are being asked to help keep all the libraries in Wiltshire open Swindon has its own shining example of how it can work.

Wiltshire Council is holding a meeting today as it looks for innovative ways to retain all 31 libraries in the county.

Proposals include reduced opening hours for every branch, assistance from local communities and new self-service technology for users.

Apart from Wootton Bassett library, which will see its hours increase by 30 minutes, to 40 a week, all the county’s libraries will have reduced hours.

Ten of the smallest libraries, including the one in Lyneham, will only stay open if volunteers come forward.

Otherwise the libraries will be replaced by the mobile library service for three hours a week.

Walcot Library, in Swindon, faced closure two years ago until volunteers decided to run it and combine it with a charity shop.

Now the shop is making enough money to put £4,000 back into the community and £2,500 into the running of the library.

Coun Peter Mallinson, the ward councillor for Walcot, said: “We had the opportunity here to keep the library open and we thought we had the ability.

“The community didn’t want to lose the library, so I got together with Nick Martin and ensured we started with a good business plan.

“Nick and I thought the mix like this would be very good and the money generated by the shop we use some of it reducing the cost of the library.

“The volunteers keep the library going and what we’ve got here is very successful, it wouldn’t still be here if it wasn’t.

“The great thing about it as well is that we are more than just a pile of books, you see people coming in all the time for a chat and a catch up, it’s great.

“If it was an ideal world, and money was no object, then obviously the best thing is always to have the professional librarians running the libraries.

“Volunteers are not paid for doing the job, they’ve got no reason other than their community spirit for doing it.”

Jackie Chappell, 61, a volunteer at Walcot Library, said: “What has been done here is brilliant. It would be a crying shame if we ever lost our library services and what we have done here is great.

“It’s not just a library and a charity shop but a meeting place for the whole community.”

Former councillor David Glaholm said: “This venture is the model for how services in the community should be run and how it can be done better.”