Libraries in the borough are now used by just 18 per cent of people, figures have revealed.
It comes as the day-to-day management of the borough’s 13 libraries, as well as Dudley’s archives centre, was transferred from the council to volunteers.
The decline in usage of libraries has caused concern among council leaders.
A national survey last year showed a third of adults – 33.4 per cent – had used a library.
Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), a charitable social enterprise, has now taken over the running of the borough’s libraries after a deal was struck last year.
The council said GLL would be tasked with ‘introducing innovative ways of working to generate income to reinvest into the service, update facilities and expand the range of services on offer’ at a time when the number of people using libraries continues to fall.
It will also be ‘expected to make financial savings for the council without impacting on day-to-day service’. All library staff will be transferred to the organisation.
A report revealed the council was also considering creating ‘community access points’, possibly in shops or churches, due in part to the fall in usage of libraries, which were previously seen as an ideal place for people to contact the authority.
Labour councillor Ken Finch described the deal as a ‘backward step’ and believes libraries still have a part to play. He said: “This is what happened with community centres. They withdrew professional support and unfortunately the volunteers haven’t got the expertise to run finance and things like that.”
He added: “You can base it on numbers but libraries are very important to people who use them.” Councillor Peter Miller, cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “With the expertise of our own staff and GLL’s experience, we are confident we can future-proof our libraries.”