Campaigners say they feel ‘threatened’ that libraries will be lost forever if they cannot meet strict timescales in taking them over.
Volunteers who asked Sheffield Council if they would have to start running facilities without any professional support were told the aim was for ‘groups to take over their library by September 29, to avoid the library being closed and boarded up’.
Several groups are preparing their final library business plans for a June deadline after the authority decided to relinquish control of 15 out of 28 libraries to meet budget cuts.
Hugh Cotton, of Broomhill Library Action Group, told The Star: “In a way this is a threat because we don’t want to lose our library, and we know, if we don’t do something, in time it will be taken away and closed.
“They think this is a partnership but it doesn’t feel like one, it feels like they want it done by a certain date and if we don’t go along with that they will shut it down.”
Campaigners say they feel under pressure with only limited time to take over from trained staff, get to grips with funding, and manage the complex handover.
Hugh added: “If the council thinks it is viable for libraries to be run by volunteers they need to give some support, even if for an initial period. At the moment there are too many questions.”
The council approved proposals to give up the libraries – retaining 12 as publicly run – in February after months of reviews.
Dawn Shaw, head of community services projects, said the council had been ‘successfully working’ with groups since business plans were received in January.
She added: “There is an ongoing package of training and support and, as outlined, there will be some professional support with council-run libraries as well as accessing local and national activities and initiatives.
“This will continue after the transitional period between June and September.
“The support both financial and professional has been committed by the council to keep as many libraries open as possible.”