Closing libraries ‘shameful’ says top broadcaster

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WRITER and broadcaster Ian Clayton has branded Wakefield Council’s decision to axe a dozen libraries as “shameful.”

Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee yesterday rubber-stamped proposals to close the 12 libraries – unless voluntary organisations step in to take over running them.

The libraries will close before March 2013 unless outside organisations put viable bids together to save them them.

The council expects to save around £800,000 a year by off-loading the libraries and plans to plough £1m in to improving services at the 14 libraries it continues to run.

Mr Clayton, who lives in Featherstone, said: “I can’t understand a civilised society wanting to do away with libraries. It just seems silly.

“You have got a perfectly good system that allows people to educate themselves and feel part of a bigger cultural community, which is important to Wakefield.

“It’s a skilful job is librarianship, people study it. If you leave that volunteers you take away that know how and knowledge that librarians have.”

He added: “I just think it’s shameful.”

Between 15 and 21 library staff will be affected, with the equivalent of six full-time jobs set to go.

The libraries due to be closed unless outside groups step in are at Ackworth, Altofts, Balne Lane Community Centre at Wakefield, Havercroft, Kinsley, Kettlethorpe, Middlestown, Outwood, South Kirkby, South Pontefract, Upton and Walton.

The 14 libraries to remain under council control are Wakefield One, Horbury, Ossett, Sandal, Stanley, Castleford Forum, Airedale, Featherstone, Knottingley, Normanton, Pontefract, Hemsworth, South Elmsall and Crofton.

The council says it will invest £1m to improve the mobile library service and the 14 libraries it continues to operate.

Groups wanting to run their own library can apply for a share of £100,000 of council cash to help kick start projects.

The council says just 14.5 per cent of Wakefield residents are regular library users and claim the biggest shake-up of library services for 30 years will mean a better service for users.