Communities could undermine efforts to save their local libraries from closure by contributing to the consultation process.
That’s the concern raised by Councillor Susan Leslie who fears those putting forward alternative suggestions for the delivery of services could unwittingly damage the cases to keep their libraries open.
Cllr Leslie – whose scrutiny committee last week examined in some detail the proposed changes to the library network in Fife – said: “I’m concerned we’re asking people to talk about the closure of their library and talk about alternatives at the same time.
“Why would our communities want to talk about alternatives when they don’t want the facility to close in the first place?
“We should take a decision on the closures and then, if their library is to close, go back to the communities to give them the chance to discuss alternative provision.”
Fife Cultural Trust, which runs the libraries on behalf of Fife Council, needs to find savings of £813,000.
It has proposed restructuring the library network, creating what it calls a ‘hub and spoke’ model.
The proposals include the closure of 16 libraries and the loss of 25 jobs.
Fife Council was due to make a decision on the proposals next month.
But a revised 12-week consultation process – confirmed this week’s by the council’s executive committee – will now run until November 6, with a decision expected on December 8.
Under the proposed ‘hub and spoke’ model, hub libraries – situated in the bigger towns such as Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline – will be open for 40 hours or more each week.
Spoke libraries – including Burntisland and Templehall – will open between 20 and 40 hours each week.
And satellite libraries – such as Kennoway and Buckhaven – will open up to 20 hours each week.
However, speaking at this week’s executive committee meeting, Cllr Leslie suggested communities were unaware there could be consequences for libraries not on the closure list.
For example, Burntisland library is currently open for 40.5 hours per week. As a ‘spoke’ library this could be reduced to 20 hours.
With nearby Kinghorn library earmarked for closure, that’s unlikely to happen, but if Kinghorn was saved, perhaps there will be an impact on Burntisland.
People throughout Fife are being encouraged to share their views and suggestions on the future of library services during the consultation period.
Council leader David Ross said: “We know that this service is important to people and we also know that people understand the severe budget cuts that all public services are facing.
“This 12-week consultation is a chance for anyone with an interest in library services to have their say.”