LIBRARY lovers have condemned Kirklees Council’s consultation into volunteer-led libraries.
The council has earmarked seven local libraries as suitable for being run by volunteer community groups from April 2013.
They are Denby Dale, Shepley, Honley, Golcar, Slaithwaite, Lepton and Kirkheaton.
The council is inviting interested groups and individuals to have their say with a six week consultation process at each library.
Consultations have already begun at Golcar and Slaithwaite.
Ahead of the May 5 consultation launch in Denby Dale, dozens of campaigners against the proposal attended a meeting with ward councillors and Kirklees Council’s libraries manager, Kathryn Harrison, to voice their views on the plan.
Many complained the consultation was not offering them any choices.
Bev Millington from Friends of Denby Dale Library (FODDL), said: “We’re frustrated as we don’t know what the framework is and what they’re trying to achieve by what date? People are unsure about what’s going to happen after the six week consultation process.”
FODDL founder, Biddy Fisher, said she thought the whole library service should be reviewed instead of focusing on cutting funding to seven village libraries.
She said: “There’s huge willingness in Denby Dale to try and find a solution to not losing the library as a building.
“Losing the library as a service is distressing to us and we fear what’s proposed is just a glorified book exchange service.” Mrs Fisher’s husband, former University of Huddersfield vice-chancellor, John Tarrant, added: “There’s no leadership here – we’ve been asked for ideas but that’s what we expect from you professionals. I find it rather insulting to be consulted about something when I know Kirklees Cabinet have sat down behind closed doors and decided what they want.
“Why have all the volunteers in one place and all the professional librarians in another?
“It seems possible to me to have volunteers across all of Kirklees rather than all or nothing.”
Clr Jim Dodds said he had asked Kirklees officers if reducing opening hours at all libraries would enable them to keep the seven threatened ones within the service.
He said: “I was told yes but if we take four or five hours off each library it would make some libraries not viable, so we would have to have some principles.”
Kathryn Harrison from Kirklees Libraries, defended the consultation.
She told the meeting: “We don’t have a clear structure because we want to listen to what you’re saying – we’re looking at absolutely everything. It’s about seeing whether there’s an appetite for volunteering.”
But several members of the public continued to express concerns about the plan to hand libraries to volunteers in April next year.
One said: “I feel hugely frustrated because I feel nobody knows where we’re going.”
Campaigners against the Honley Library plan will be at the Valleys Area Committee meeting at Golcar Providence Methodist Church, 7pm, on Thursday.