Libraries across North Yorkshire have lost 34 per cent of paid staff, taking on more than 800 volunteers in just five years, new figures reveal.
In 2010, there were 350 paid staff in libraries compared with 230 currently working in North Yorkshire with 805 more unpaid volunteers today than the 563 five years ago.
These numbers are set to be exacerbated when North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) new method of delivering library services take effect from spring 2017.
Paid staff will disappear from 20 community managed libraries, with just one employed at the five hybrid libraries and a combination of paid staff and volunteers at the seven core libraries across the county.
Despite the increasing reliance on volunteers, Chrys Mellor, general manager of NYCC’s libraries, believes the new method for delivering the services will be sustainable.
She said: “Nobody particularly wanted this but, that said, we’ve had lots of people who, faced with the prospect of losing a library, have stepped up to volunteer.
“We know people love them so we did slightly expect people to come out in force. We had more than 18,000 responses to the questionnaire but equally they came out in force wanting to volunteer.
“We do believe this model is sustainable because there’s always a whole range of reasons why people want to volunteer and the structure we’re putting it place will work for the long-term.
“The volunteers will bring a whole new world to us . It will make the libraries more responsive to community needs. Libraries need that enthusiasm and people with local knowledge.”
The figures, obtained by the BBC, also identified that 10 mobile libraries have closed down in the county but Ms Mellor explained these were only used by 4 per cent of library visitors.
The new method of delivering library services comes after their budget was cut from £7.8m in 2010 to £4.2m for 2019-20 while a further £1.6m of savings still had to be made.
As a result, Harrogate will become one of the county’s core libraries, Knaresborough and Ripon as hybrids and Boroughbridge, Pateley Bridge, Starbeck and Tadcaster all community managed.
Ms Mellor said that good progress was being made with the library conversions and that they will begin recruiting for core library volunteers this summer.