FOUR libraries in The Gazette area are under threat of closure after Hampshire County Council launched a consultation on plans to restructure its services to save £1.7million.

Mobile library services could be scrapped altogether under the proposals.

The council plans to reduce the number of Tier 3 static libraries, which include Overton, Whitchurch, South Ham and Odiham.

In its consultation document it states that some may close, while others could transfer to be run by local community groups, which could save from £25,000 to more than £50,000 a year per library.

Decisions on the Tier 3 libraries will be made based on a set of criteria including the number of users, community needs, access, the quality and location of the building and their value for money.

In some Tier 3 libraries that are single staffed, the council is looking to pilot an ‘open library’ approach whereby the library would be unstaffed some of the time but remain open to allow customers to issue or return books using the self-service systems.

Under the council’s plans it also wants to scrap all of its mobile libraries.

The council has five mobile library vehicles that visit 250 stops across the county serving the rural communities.

The mobile libraries cost around £360,000 a year to run and are used by around 2,230 people – less than one per cent of Hampshire’s library customers.

The consultation states: “The mobile library vehicles are nearing the end of their 10 year leases and are increasingly unreliable. We have to decide whether, in the face of declining demand, it is the best use of resources to replace the vehicles. New vehicles would cost more to lease than the current ones and it would cost about £100,000 to buy a new vehicle.”

The council estimates it can make £1.7m savings from its budget by 2020, which includes a staff restructure completed in 2015 saving £300,000, increasing the use of trained volunteers, closing some smaller libraries and scrapping the mobile library service.

The plans also include improving the digital service through a series of IT projects including an upgrade of the library management system and helping customers use iPads, tablets, eReaders and Skype communication.

The consultation says: “Many people access library services very differently now to when libraries first opened, so the county council needs a clear focus for the future of the service. The county council also expects that it will need to save money in the future, but that is not the only reason for change.”

It adds: “Our ambition is to demonstrate innovation, modern thinking and business leadership to provide comprehensive, high quality but affordable library services that are suitable for the 21st century.”

The public consultation on the council’s draft strategy opened on November 2 and will run until January 16.

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