The cuts and Marlborough’s library – first the good news

Written by Tony Millett on .

The good news is that despite heavy cuts to Wiltshire Council’s budget, none of the county’s thirty-one libraries will be closed and none of its five mobile libraries taken off the road.

The not so good news is that it’s planned to cut the opening hours for Marlborough’s library from 42.5 hours per week to thirty-three hours – a reduction of 22 %. There will be late opening until 7 pm on two nights a week and Saturday opening will be restricted to 9.30 am-1 pm.

The cut in Marlborough library’s opening hours is the fourth biggest among Wiltshire’s 21 larger libraries.

In the last financial year Wiltshire’s library service made cuts of 16% largely through lower administration costs and losing some senior staff. But the council’s head of library services, Joan Davis, told the Marlborough Area Board that further cuts needed this year and next (12% more) could not be made “without affecting frontline services at all.”

There will be a substantial cut in the county’s book buying budget – down from £856,000 a year to £707,000. That’s a reduction of 17.5% even though focus groups on people’s priorities for their library made it plain that “continued investment in the book stock was absolutely essential.”

The plan calls for Wiltshire’s ten smallest libraries – including Aldbourne and Ramsbury – to be run by community volunteers with limited help from trained staff. But the aim is to open these libraries for a minimum of just three hours a week.

However, villagers in Aldbourne have decided they don’t want to lose their librarian and will raise the necessary funds through council tax. This should cost the average council tax payer in Aldbourne about £7 extra each year.

So far 400 volunteers have come forward for these small libraries and training will begin soon.

Ms Davis said the use of volunteers to extend opening hours in Marlborough could not be considered at the moment.