THE libraries in Tiverton and Crediton could be turned into community ‘Devon Centres’ as part of the county council’s attempts to save £1.5million.
The county council this week announced plans to consult on an ambitious vision for a public library service which would be “sustainable, rec-eptive to communities’ needs and fit for the fut-ure”.
The proposals are part of the bid to save £1.5million by 2017 and focus on the county’s bigger lib-raries.
The council has issued a statement saying: “With a decline in traditional book lending and a rise in the popularity of online and e-reader technologies, the face of Devon’s library service is already changing as libraries become centres – ‘Devon Centres’ – for communities offering a broader range of services.
“These factors, as well as a need for the service to save £1.5million by 2017 on top of £3million savings already made, are influencing the council’s current thinking on what Devon’s library service might look like in future.
“Arts Council England, which is responsible for public library policy, has published what it thinks a modern library service should offer.”
Under the proposals the Tiverton and Crediton libraries would follow in the footsteps of The Hay-ridge in Cullompton, incorporating modern lib-rary services alongside other offerings, including adult learning, cafés, work hub facilities for business start-ups and facilities for adults with learning disabilities.
Cllr Roger Croad, council cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said the council’s need to save £110million by 2017 due to cuts in Govern-ment funding was not the only reason for the proposals.
He said: “Changes in the way people use libraries, and what they expect of the service, are also driving this consideration of what a future library service might look like.
“These proposals would see a consolidation of the service, focusing on a network of enhanced ‘Devon Centres’ with resources and support to community-led initiatives.
“We know that at their best libraries have tremendous potential to support people of all ages to develop their skills and knowledge.
“We think these proposals represent the best opportunity to maximise the potential of libraries to support local communities in the future.
“Of course, we’re continuing to reduce costs in other ways in our management and support of the service.
“Over the coming months we’ll be going out to communities to engage them in thinking about how they can maintain a local service with as much support from the council as we can give.
“I’d encourage local residents, groups and organisations to give us their views and put forward any other ideas or suggestions they have on how we can continue to offer this very important service while also reducing costs.
“We’re happy to hear from organisations across the county who have innovative ideas on how this could be done.”
Questions remain over the future of three smaller Mid Devon libraries with some reports claiming Bampton, Chulmleigh and Uffculme could be among more than half the county’s libraries facing closure.
The council will put all seven proposals out for public consultation over the next three months and announce firm proposals in the autumn, followed by further engagement with local communities.
The council cabinet will discuss the proposal to start consultation next Wednesday, April 9.