WHAT Coun Mallinson has done (ref Library articles Jan 25) is encourage the idea that libraries can be run by volunteers, and that that is better than closure. Walcot is not a flagship library. It is now a charity shop, managed by a ward councillor, in very superior premises for which it pays very little rent, and in which it has inherited the remnants of what was once a library service. The community were not consulted before the new arrangements were made, and Coun Mallinson himself says in the first article that he and Coun Martin got together on a "business plan", which was then imposed on the community. There was no consultation process.

The charity shop appears to be flourishing, and that's a good thing, but the library service is not. The number of books borrowed has gone down dramatically - as has the number of books available. The charity shop volunteers cannot and do not provide an informed library service. Lack of staff, and changed opening hours, has resulted in far less usage by young people of the computers and the summer reading scheme, and of school classes using the library. In an area where reading for both education and enjoyment should be actively promoted, this is a disaster.

Those of us who are passionate about the part a good library service can play in strengthening and nurturing a love of books, a desire for information, a resolve to learn and discover - which is a large part of being human - are appalled at what is going on right across the country, with decisions being taken on library closures by people who probably don't use libraries! Coun Mallinson, who was quite genuine in his desire to keep Walcot Library open (and to boost the sales of the charity shop he managed) has now ensured that his one-sided picture of the result of his "experiment" will encourage Wiltshire to go down the same road and a library service will wither away in many areas. It is a pity that it has taken Allyson Jordan, head of library services, so long to come out and stand up for her service. On the failure of the summer reading scheme she comments 'It relies heavily on a member of staff to help the volunteers.'

Volunteers cannot run a library service, though they can be a great help to trained library staff. It is encouraging that Coun Foley has listened to library campaigners, and now says she doesn't want any library entirely run by volunteers. Is Walcot about to regain a staffed library service?

SHERRY WALDON Kingswood Avenue Park North Swindon