What is the future of Harrogate Library?

The future of Harrogate Library was discussed this week as the public consultation began.

Wednesday, 26th November 2014, 4:30 pm
Harrogate Library.

For five hours people arrived at the library with questions and comments about what would happen to the service in Harrogate when the funding from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) is cut from £5.8m to £4.2m.

This reduction of £1.6m follows a cut of £2m in 2010 as part of the initial wave of cuts to services to save the council a total of £168m by 2020.

Volunteers will be needed to take the reigns from professionals at least in part at every library in the district, including Harrogate, which could have a 60/40 split between paid staff and volunteers.

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This news was delivered to the Harrogate area committee this month by assistant director of library and community services Julie Blaisdale.

She said: “Essentially we are looking at how the library service can make its contribution to the council reductions.

“This is not about closing libraries, it’s about using the money we have got.

“All libraries will need volunteers and that will be quite a departure. Up until now they have added value to what we do but we haven’t relied on them for our core business like opening hours.

“NYCC has to provide a comprehensive and efficient service. We think that through working with communities we are doing that.

“This thing will be a reality by February 2017.”

Harrogate Library could be a ‘core library’ retaining more staff than other services in Ripon and Knaresborough where there could only be one paid member of staff - a reduction from seven.

Libraries in 20 locations, including Starbeck and Pateley Bridge, could become completely community managed, with no paid staff and no NYCC support outside of books, advice, and the broadband network.

At the meeting Ripon North division Coun Bernard Bateman (Con) said: “I am very concerned.

“The library isn’t the major hub necessarily as in rural areas but I do need to have more information on how you intend running Ripon library with one person.”

Harrogate Starbeck division Coun Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley (Lib Dem) added: “If it is going to be only volunteers the insurance liability will be on them and my ladies in Starbeck are really quite concerned about that.”

Ongoing until February 2015, the consultation will inform a report that will be delivered to the NYCC executive in June 2015. A decision will then be taken on the library service that will be implemented before 2017.

The online consultation service has so far attracted more than 1,500 responses.