All libraries likely to stay open - with a lot of help from their friends

ALL of North Yorkshire’s threatened libraries could be saved - including Bilton.

North Yorkshire County Council has praised the work of community groups which have put forward bids to run eight libraries across the county.

They were all threatened with closure after the council announced in June it would no longer be paying to keep them open.

But County Coun Chris Metcalfe, executive member for library services, said he was hopeful community groups will be successful when their bids are formally discussed in November.

He said: “It would be wrong to give any guarantees at this stage, but the proposals and business plans we have received from community groups are all extremely promising, and we will do all we can to assist to turn them into reality.”

But he said finding enough volunteers to run the libraries - including those which will be partly maintained by the council, such as Starbeck - was vital to their future.

“Following the feedback from the consultation to ‘share the pain’, all of our libraries will see a reduction in opening hours, some of as much as 30 per cent, unless suitable numbers of volunteers can be found to assist.

“For the eight libraries in Category 3 [including Bilton] where the county council will continue to supply book stock but not staff or running costs therefore, volunteers and community support will be essential.”

Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, said: “This is welcome news and comes after long and determined campaigns by local residents and councillors to keep the libraries open.

“I have been pleased to lend my support to those campaigns and it looks like the community has risen to the challenge to save the libraries.

“While the future is not yet certain the county council’s announcement marks a huge leap forward in the campaign.”

The decision over whether to allow community groups, such as that in Bilton, to run libraries will be made by the county council’s executive on November 22. If successful, the groups could take over running the libraries by March 2012.

Coun Alec Brown, who represents the Bilton ward on Harrogate Borough Council, said: “I’ve worked hard with the Bilton Library Friends Group and I know it will be an enormous boost for them and Bilton residents that the library is likely to stay open.

“These facilities are the hub of many communities and it would be a real blow were the library to close.”