DOZENS of residents vowed to fight the closure of the beloved Ilminster Library at a public meeting.

The town’s library is facing closure unless volunteers can be found to step in and help with the day-to-day running of the service.

Somerset County Council wants to modernise the service and find ways to address shortfalls in its budget in the wake of cuts in funding from central Government.

Mayor of Ilminster Councillor Val Keitch, MP Marcus Fysh and Oliver Woodhams, from Somerset County Council’s libraries team, fielded questions from residents.

Mr Woodhams said the consultation has three potential options for Ilminster Library:

  • the first option is to make no changes and the running costs of the library are approximately £30,000;
  • the second is for volunteers to step-in and run the library with Somerset County Council providing around £5,000 a year to support it as well as providing book stock, training and technical expertise;
  • and the final option is for the library to close and the building to be sold, with a mobile library visiting once or twice a month and library activities being held in other venues at a significantly reduced cost.

He said the best way for the people of Ilminster to influence the outcome would be to take time and fill out a questionnaire as part of the consultation explaining how valued the library is. A final decision has not yet been made.

Cllr Keitch said: “I think it is absolutely vital that we keep our library service and I have called this meeting to look at what we may be able to do to keep it running.”

MP Marcus Fysh added: “I think this is an incredibly valuable public service. I have fought for better funding for Somerset but it is an undeniably tough environment at the moment with lots of demands on our budgets whether that is defence, education or social care.”

Ilminster town councillor Andrew Shearman spoke passionately against any cuts saying many of Ilminster’s most vulnerable would be affected by the changes.

“There are 6,000 people here now and with all the houses planned that is likely to go up by another 1,000. More and more often the government is insisting people go online to access services, and yet here they are taking away computer resources used by some of our most vulnerable residents,” Cllr Shearman said.

One resident said he had recently moved from a village in North Devon where they had the mobile library service.

“It did work for some people, but not for those with kids or who worked full time, and it does not bring the community together in the same way,” he said.

“Ilminster Library is a beautiful building that is important to the town, please do not take it away from us.”

At the end of the meeting, Cllr Keitch asked those people who would be interested in setting up an exploratory group to investigate how the community might run the library in the future to sign up on their way out.