CAMPAIGNERS fighting library funding cuts in Oxfordshire have welcomed a move by councillors to look at an innovative London project which kept branches open.
Senior members of Oxfordshire County Council are due to visit Hillingdon, in the west of London, later this month to find out how the authority overhauled its library service, as revealed in Monday’s Oxford Mail.
The county council agreed last month to cut £2m from its libraries budget over the next four years, which would mean ending funding of 20 of the county’s 43 branches.
Hillingdon Borough Council has introduced several innovations to its libraries, including Starbucks coffee shops to increase footfall and income, alongside new book-buying methods, to help reduce running costs.
The council has reinvested money in refurbishing and rebuilding its 17 libraries and is one of only a handful of authorities in England that is not proposing library closures to help balance their books amid cuts in government funding for councils.
The 19 campaign groups fighting to save libraries across Oxfordshire have formed an alliance and most have vowed not to apply for county council cash to help run branches with volunteers.
They want them to remain open as part of the council’s library network and say they would welcome any innovations that help to achieve that goal.
Neil Clark,of the Save Botley Library campaign, said: “As long as it stays in council control, we’re open to these ideas.”
Mr Clark said from a personal perspective he did not like the idea of coffee bars in libraries but said that compromises should be explored if they could halt the threat of closures.
He said: “It’s not necessarily what we’re campaigning for.
“We’re fighting library closures and the breaking-up of the network.
“But we’re open to looking at innovation within the library system.”
Robin Shuckburgh, a member of of the campaign to save Bampton Library from closure, also welcomed the move to explore using new ideas.
He added: “Innovative ideas as to how you make the maximum use of space we certainly welcome.
“If it keeps them open on a publicly-run basis, then of course we’re open to suggestions and we would do our damnedest to make sure any contribution from the local population was there.”
The county council is due to launch a 12-week consultation on the future of the library service next month before taking a final decision on the way in which the £2m savings will be made.
Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “The financial decision has been taken but all options are open.”