Self-service facilities to be installed at Wolverhampton libraries - poll
Controversial plans have been unveiled to install self-service facilities at libraries across a city.
The automated machines, which enable customers to take out and return books on their own, are set to be operational in all 16 libraries in Wolverhampton by the end of the year, leisure bosses have confirmed.
Council chiefs said the machines will help to improve efficiency by reducing waiting times, and free up staff to deal with customer inquiries.
But library action group campaigners have blasted the move, claiming it is part of a council scheme to 'do away with librarians almost entirely'.
The number of full-time staff working in the city's libraries has already fallen from 117 to just 17 in the last six years, a reduction of 85 per cent, and council bosses said the latest moves would lead to more job losses. An exact figure has not yet been announced.
The machines are already up and running at libraries in Wednesfield, Blakenhall and Tettenhall, whilst self-service facilities were recently installed at the new Collingwood Library in Broadway Gardens.
The same facilities are set to be fitted at all of the city's remaining libraries, including the main Central Library. They will become operational in Penn, Spring Vale and Warstones over the coming weeks.
Councillor Elias Mattu, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Leisure and Communities, said: "Self-serve machines allow our customers to borrow, return or renew books quickly and easily.
"Customers can also check their account status themselves, giving them more control over their borrowing. They seem to be popular with customers, who can scan up to 10 books in one go, and can also reduce waiting times.
"And they've proved particularly successful at Collingwood Library at Broadway Gardens which is primarily a self-service library."
He added: "Our aim is that more and more customers are able to use self-service machines to routinely issue and return books as this will free up time for staff to deal with other customer enquiries and therefore increase the overall level of service our customers receive."
James Macfarlane, spokesman for the Save Wolverhampton Libraries campaign, said the installation of the machines was a blow for library users across the city. The council appear to be proud to be introducing reception machines in all of our libraries," he said.
"But their motive is to permit them to do away with librarians almost entirely in local branches and severely reduce them in Central Library.
"It is an insult to the intelligence of our city's citizens to claim this move is anything other than a dismantling of a service the city has been proud of for generations."
Last year council bosses announced they were trying to recruit an army of volunteers to help keep libraries open for longer, but the drive has failed to prevent big cuts to opening hours. The cuts, which are set to start next month, will see Whitmore Reans Library go from opening six days a week to just 15 hours a week.
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