Council pledge extra staffing support to North Yorkshire’s at-risk libraries

tis. The new refurbished interior of Harrogate Library. 100826GS1
tis. The new refurbished interior of Harrogate Library. 100826GS1

The most at-risk libraries in the Harrogate district have been given a boost in staffing numbers by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).

In a meeting on Tuesday, June 7, the authority’s executive agreed to proposals to increase the proposed library budget by £175,000.

This extra funding will provide additional dedicated support to help community libraries, such as Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge, Starbeck and Tadcaster, develop.

Coun Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Library and Information Services said the ‘dedicated’ paid staff support now available to those community libraries will help to make them more successful moving forwards.

He said: “The current group of community libraries have gone from strength to strength, expanding way beyond book-lending to become key deliverers of services,

“We now want to make sure that many more community libraries can be successfully introduced in order to retain a much-cherished county-wide library service.

“We cannot secure that service without communities stepping forward, but we also acknowledge that communities need some on-going dedicated support.”

Fears were initially raised in November 2014 that some libraries could face closure when the council proposed extensive cuts of £1.6m on their budget.

However, residents reacted angrily to the proposals and made their voices heard during the council’s consultation.

More than 17,000 people responded to the consultation, including 8,782 signing six petitions objecting.

Coun Metcalfe said the response revealed just how highly valued the library service was to the county’s residents.

He said: “We hope that today’s decision shows that we have been prepared to listen.

“We have acted on what people have had to say by taking on board the fact people think community-led libraries would need some dedicated support to be successful.”

Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge, Starbeck and Tadcaster library will now receive between five to seven hours of additional paid staff support a week, as well as some financial support for premises costs.

As Hybrid libraries, Ripon and Knaresborough library will operate with a combination of 40 per cent current staffing levels and 60 per cent volunteers.

Harrogate will remain one of seven ‘core’ libraries in the district with a combination of 60 per cent of current staffing levels and volunteers.

During the consultation, concerns were expressed about the local availability of volunteers and, as such, the sustainability of residents’ local libraries.

Under the approved recommendations, the authority has stated the staffing support is proposed on the understanding communities ‘embrace’ the community managed model.

The cuts to libraries budget are part of North Yorkshire County Council’s overall scheme to save £167m.