NEARLY half of council-run libraries in Somerset could be set to close in a bid to cut costs, it has been announced.

Somerset County Council has launched a consultation over the future of county libraries, which starts at the end of this month.

Under the plans, 15 of 34 libraries could close unless 'community involvement' is found to keep them running.

But if nothing could be arranged, many face closure, being replaced with mobile library services or possible relocation.

Libraries under threat include Priorswood, Wellington, Wiveliscombe, Dulverton, Watchet, Bishops Lydeard, Ilminster and Highbridge.

Cabinet member for resources and economic development at the county council, Cllr David Hall, said the views of people would be analysed before final decisions made.

“These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long term, while still delivering a modern thriving library service across our county," he said.

“Library services will continue across Somerset whatever the response from this consultation, but our proposals highlight that keeping some libraries open may require community support.

"Where we are unable to keep libraries open, we will deliver library services in other ways such as via alternative venues or mobile library services."

Chard & Ilminster News: RESOURCE: North Petherton Library
UNDER THREAT: North Petherton Library

The public consulation will start on January 29 and run for 12 weeks (ending April 22) and invites members of the public, businesses and organisations for their views.

“I would stress that no decision about the future delivery of library services in any community has been taken and no decision will be made until the results of this consultation have been fully analysed," Cllr Hall added.

"Please take the opportunity to submit your views on the proposals from January 29 and offer your ideas or suggestions for any alternative proposals you may have.”

A spokesman for SCC added: “A formal decision was taken today to consult on a set of proposals that seek to put the service on a sustainable footing for the long-term, at a time when all council budgets are under enormous pressure.

“Somerset County Council currently provides a library service online through LibrariesWest, a mobile library, a home delivery service for customers unable to visit a library for themselves and through 34 library buildings in major towns and villages.

“As with many Authorities, Somerset County Council continues to face challenging financial times. Funds from central government reduce year on year whilst demand for services, such as adult and children’s social care, increase and all County Council services are considering efficiency and cost reduction options.

“In summary, under the proposals, 15 of our 34 library buildings would be seeking community involvement to remain open. Where this is not possible, services would instead be provided either through outreach in community venues or through additional mobile library stops."

For seven of the libraries, the County Council is consulting on two alternative options – either to seek community involvement to maintain library buildings or to keep existing library services as they currently are.

The library service proposals for nine areas in total are available to view here.

Anyone taking part in the consultation will be asked to view the area of the library they visit most often before completing a questionnaire asking for their views on the proposals.

The proposals and the questionnaire will be available online from January 29 here.