THE future of our libraries is coming under close scrutiny as the council continues to battle to find savings to balance its budget.
After a year’s research into library usage the council is now undertaking a consultation exercise with users to find out what changes they would be prepared to accept.
What is not in question is that the £6m library budget will be cut.
But the uncertainty surrounds what shape the library service will be in following this latest round of cuts.
Understandably the council does not want to show its hand at the moment about what cuts are likely. But a look at its consultation document gives some clues - and they are little different to cuts that have been made elsewhere in the country.
On its agenda will be library opening hours, closure of some facilities with replacement by a mobile service, restrictions on services and materials they offer and, perhaps the most controversial of all, the withdrawal of the council running libraries in favour of volunteer-led enterprises.
Any decisions that adversely affect popular libraries will meet with oppostion. So what is important is that the council is transparent with its consultation, that the feedback they receive is listened to and changes are made that still protect a service that meets the needs of our communities.
Importantly, that also means that even if libraries are underused, they may still provide a vital service to people who do not have the same access to materials and books that the more affluent areas may have, and should be protected and if necessary subsidised.
New college sets standard for city
ON the other hand, while cuts are being proposed to our libraries a significant decision was made in the council chamber yesterday - to press ahead with the city’s first University Technical College.
This new form of college will offer training to students aged between 14 and 19 in academic and vocational courses geared to careers in specialised industries.
The UTC will offer a real alternative to the traditional school route and should dovetail well with the drive to create jobs through apprenticeships.
We have to be radical in our education system to prepare youngsters for the workplace.
The UTC should do just that, meeting the needs of students who don’t necessarily want to go on to university education.
This is a landmark decision for the city.
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