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Walsall Council cuts: Volunteers invited to form DIY libraries

Voluntary groups are being called on to replace book lending services lost by the proposed closure of seven libraries across Walsall.


Walsall Council is looking to axe the libraries and the mobile library service, along with 13 jobs, in a bid to save £487,912 during the next two year.

Bosses say the axed libraries could be replaced with 'book exchanges' which would be run by volunteers.

Community groups and organisations are being asked to come forward to run the services to replace the libraries that are set to close down, including those in Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pleck, Rushall and South Walsall.

A statement in this year's council budget said: "Any community groups or organisation expressing a wish to provide book exchange facilities where libraries have closed will be supported by the service while they establish their centre and identify funding streams.

"Any support given to a community organisation for a community run book exchange would impact on the level of proposed savings."

Walsall Council's deputy leader Adrian Andrew said any groups who come forward to help run libraries in the future will be supported by the council.

He said: "Each community will be supported if volunteers come forward to run and retain their own libraries.

"This is already working well at Pheasey library and I believe this can happen across the borough."

Councillor Ian Shires, who represents Willenhall North, said the proposals to ask for help from the voluntary sector are 'short sighted' and could potentially unfair on those who do come forward.

He said: "To me, Walsall Council is lacking leadership on this issue and they seem to just be reducing vital services without thought to the consequences.

"A book exchange service is not a library, libraries are for far more than books, they are at the centre of communities and provide a whole range of services.

"Asking people to volunteer to run these libraries is short sighted, it is not something that is easy to do and would take just a little time.

"It is also important to consider that this will still take a lot of funding, which will have to come from elsewhere.

"If that can't be found or dries up in a short while, the volunteers are going to take the hit.

"The council claim that closing libraries is not something they want to do, and I agree it shouldn't be done, but I don't believe this would be a suitable replacement."

Libraries in Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston, Pelsall, Pheasey, Streetly, Willenhall and the Walsall Central Library stand to remain open despite closures elsewhere.

However, new technology including self-service machines and a new smart card entry system is planned, meaning less staff will be needed.

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