LIBRARIES which are set to have opening hours reduced due to funding cuts could be manned by volunteers.
Hampshire County Council confirmed it was closing eight libraries in the county, including Blackfield and Lyndhurst.
It has launched a public consultation to seek the views of residents on proposed new opening times of remaining facilities, such as Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood, Hythe, Totton and Fordingbridge.
Around 40 libraries will have staffed hours reduced by an average of 20%. However, the county council is seeking groups or organisations who might be interested in volunteering to extend the proposed times.
HCC is making a reduction of £1.76m from the library budget to bridge a funding gap which it said was from rising demand for services, particularly in social care. The community library at Milford will also lose its support.
The council’s cabinet member for recreation and heritage, Cllr Seán Woodward said: “We’ve agreed a vision for the future of Hampshire’s library service, supported by over 70% of those who responded to the first part of the consultation, which will allow us to adapt to the changing needs of our customers and provide the highest-quality library service possible within our financial means – one that is fit for the future.”
He added: “The focus of this second consultation is on the 40 council-run libraries and the needs of those individual communities and I’d encourage people to take part.
“It’s important we hear from local people who use their local libraries about the staffed opening hours which are the most important and the most useful to them.
“We’re also very open to ideas from local groups or organisations who might wish to offer volunteer support to expand on those staffed opening hours to keep their library open to the public longer on some days.”
The consultation on staffed opening hours runs until 17th August and can be filled out online at www.hants.gov.uk/library-consultation
Paper copies of the consultation are also available in libraries. Anyone who is interested in volunteering can send a message via the council’s online system at www.hants.gov.uk/aboutthecouncil/contact