CLOSING libraries in Slough received a ‘low approval’ by residents during a 12-week consultation.

Cabinet councillors agreed to launch a survey from October 28 after it was deemed the current library services were too costly for the council when it effectively declared bankruptcy in July.

In the consultation, it wanted to gather views from residents and library users on five proposed options, including closing Langley and Cippenham Library, keep all buildings but slash opening hours and staff, reduce spend on publications, or relocate services from a range of locations across Slough.

According to the council, more than 600,000 visits are made to the borough’s libraries by residents in a typical year, to borrow more than 500,000 books.

The survey closed on January 20 and a total of 2,535 people responded to it.

The two proposed options to close the libraries received a ‘low approval’ from residents and users where about 15 per cent agreed to this idea.

Slough Observer:

The most popular option at 81 per cent was to keep all buildings but slash opening hours, staffing hours, and reduce space. 74 per cent agreed to slash opening and staff hours at Cippenham and Langley libraries and reduce staffed hours at the Curve and Britwell.

About half of respondents approved the idea to reduce spending on hard copies and eResources.

Over 700 respondents commented on the survey. 38 per cent said they go to the library to ‘combat loneliness’ and that the buildings are a ‘valuable community asset’ that builds on social inclusion and cohesion.

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Unison’s, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, Southeast branch also commented on the consultation.

It criticised the Labour-run council for having volunteers do the work of paid staff, such as issuing and returning books, reshelving, and opening and closing the buildings.

Comments were made the consultation “does not seem to give a fair representation of what library staff actually do”.

The trade union also believed reducing hours or closing libraries would “disadvantage” the elderly, disabled, moms with very small children, younger users, and those on a low income.

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It stated: “The library service doesn't just issue books, it should provide a place to study, access to research materials and internet, and computer access. Reducing access to these things will be of greater detriment to the most disadvantaged residents.”

The consultation results will go to customer and community scrutiny panel for comment and form a recommendation to cabinet, who will make the final decision in March.