Leeds: Cutting of hours ‘key to survival of libraries’

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Slashing opening hours at dozens of Leeds’s libraries is the only way of ensuring their long-term survival, senior councillors were told last night.

Leeds City Council’s cabinet has just approved plans for a shake-up which will cut the combined weekly opening times of 33 of the city’s 36 libraries by 187 hours, or 12 per cent. It will save the council £300,000 a year.

As previously reported in the YEP, the hardest hit libraries will include Gildersome, with a reduction of 48 per cent, Whinmoor, at 33 per cent and Dewsbury Road with 23 per cent. Leeds Central Library would shut an hour earlier on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. No sites are due to close down completely. The new hours will begin in December.

The meeting heard that with dwindling resources and funding, the city’s libraries cannot survive in their current form, and there is a need for them to be “more sustainable services in the future”.

There was cross-party support for the shake-up, with councillor John Procter, deputy leader of the main opposition Tory group, pointing out that “while there may be fewer hours, they are better hours, more flexible than currently”.

“The library service will face major changes over the next five to 10 years,” he said.

“It’s not going to be easy for print [media] of any sort to survive the electronic age.”

Council leader Keith Wakefield said it was important to note that the changes would help “keep alive” dozens of libraries which could otherwise sink.

He pointed out that other local councils are closing library facilities completely, most recently Kirklees, which he said was “shutting all its libraries bar two”.

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