Strong response to new library friends’ group

Budleigh Salterton Library.

Budleigh Salterton Library. - Credit: Archant

The people of Budleigh are jumping at the chance to have a greater say in how their library is run.

The new Friends of Budleigh Salterton Library group was officially launched at a public meeting, and more than 50 people have already signed up. The idea for a friends’ group came out of Devon County Council’s plans to reorganise the county’s library service.

Budleigh library supervisor Margaret Hallett told the meeting that a friends’ group could help with organising extra events, could find ways of extending the library’s opening hours, and could raise funds for the library, which in the short term could pay for improvements, such as a drinks or snacks machine and more comfortable chairs.

In future, a friends’ group could apply for grants which could potentially bring more radical changes.

Margaret told the meeting: “At the previous meeting in November there was an option for a futuristic two-storey library – that’s not out of the question. There will be grants available when we have a committee for things like that.”

Speaking after the meeting, she said more than 50 had already signed up, and added: “It’s going really well. We’ve had a very positive response.”

The meeting also heard from Liz Alexander, of Devon Libraries, who explained that the council wanted to save £1.5million from its libraries budget. Its plan was for the library service to be ‘spun out’ of the council and set up as a mutual or trust, which would be commissioned by the council to manage the libraries.

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Ms Alexander said all existing library staff would automatically transfer across, and there were no plans to reduce any opening hours.

She added: “Devon County Council will retain statutory responsibility for the library service, but will commission us to deliver a service on their behalf.

“This is not about privatising the library service at all. It’s about being more in charge ourselves. It will still be a free library service for the communities in Devon. That’s what our responsibility is, and we have to do that.”

She added that the new mutual would have an initial contract to run libraries for five years, with agreement in place for another five. The council would retain the freehold of the Budleigh library building.

The new organisation, which would also allow a countywide saving of around £400,000 on business rates, is expected to be in place by April 2016.

If you would like to join the friends’ group, forms are available from the library.