SKIPTON LIbrary could suffer a major reduction in its opening hours as part of county wide cost-cutting.

The library - set to become a 'core' library with an administrative role over village community libraries - could also see a fall in the number of professional staff.

North Yorkshire County Council, which is currently consulting on changes to libraries until February next year, says cuts have to be made to save an additional £2 million from its library budget.

Libraries at Ingleton, Bentham and Cross Hills could become community run in early 2017 with support from Skipton, while Skipton itself will also have to rely on volunteers if it is to maintain its current opening hours.

With a planned ratio of 60 per cent paid staff and 40 per cent volunteers, the library could face a 40 per cent reduction in its opening hours without community help.

Julie Blaisdale, assistant director for library and community services at the county council, said staff at Skipton - currently nine, including part-time workers - had been informed of the proposals before the start of the public consultation.

Their roles would change to become more supervisory, overseeing the community libraries and assisting volunteers, who would be trained to carry out duties including meeting and greeting, shelving books and carrying out story telling.

"Some of the staff have already said they don't want to have a supervisory role. We have made it very clear that is what will be required as we don't have a sufficient budget to do everything," she said.

Ms Blaisdale likened the future running of the library to the Citizens Advice Bureau, where a paid member of staff was in charge of a number of volunteers.

She also pointed to libraries at Gargrave, Embsay and Grassington - all successfully run by their communities.

But the consultation has already raised concerns amongst library users, and Skipton county councillor Andy Solloway said he would oppose any cuts.

"I think volunteers do a wonderful job in running many things, but if one or more couldn't commit themselves at any time, surely that would affect the opening of the library," he said.

"And how can Skipton possibly be a "core library" without trained, contracted, paid staff running things?

"I will oppose any further cutbacks to library provision in Skipton in particular and the county in general."

Kate Taylor, co-founder of the MooBaaKids website, said: "We use the library regularly and there is a growing concern among users that under the proposals the paid staff may be purely administrative roles, with the loss of our wonderful librarians in public-facing roles.

"The librarians at Skipton have years' worth of knowledge and experience, some have clocked up 25 years service, and they cannot be replaced by volunteers trained on a shoestring. Sufficient numbers of volunteers may not even come forward."

She added: "It is a travesty for North Yorkshire County Council to admit that a town like Skipton, the gateway to the Dales and apparently the best place to live in the UK and a town renowned for its top ranking schools, cannot be home to a fully functioning library with a guaranteed future."

A drop-in event as part of the county-wide consultation will take place at Skipton Library today from 3pm to 7pm.

The library consultation will be discussed at the Craven Area Committee meeting of North Yorkshire County Council on |December 11.

Any changes as a result of the consultation will take place in early 2017.

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