VOLUNTEERS will be staffing almost half the county’s libraries by next year as controversial changes come into force.

Oxfordshire County Council is now rolling out plans to save costs by having 21 of the county’s libraries run with the help of volunteers.

They were introduced after the council’s original proposal to close a significant number of facilities sparked widespread protests.

County councillor Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, the cabinet member for cultural and community services, said the volunteering model would be introduced in all the libraries by January.

She said: “As of September 1, agreement has been reached with community groups regarding individual models for all of the 21 libraries.

“These models have already been implemented in 13 libraries, and in the remaining eight libraries timescales have been agreed for introducing volunteering by January 2015 at the latest.

“In each community a partnership working agreement has been signed, or is being finalised, to confirm the agreements and to clarify the mutual responsibilities that the community and the library service have agreed to take on.

“The county council will maintain current services and opening hours across the whole network of 43 public libraries in Oxfordshire, as a direct result of the enthusiasm and support of Oxfordshire residents for their local libraries and the hard work of staff throughout our library service.”

In the face of Government cuts, the county council in 2010 proposed closing 20 libraries.

This sparked mass protests backed by such famous local literary figures as Philip Pullman and Colin Dexter.

In the end the council decided to consider alternatives after being given extra money by the Government, and came up with proposals for voluntary staffing.

This means a core of 22 libraries will be fully staffed, five will be run by one third volunteers and two thirds staff and 16 will be manned by two thirds volunteers and one third staff.

Bampton and North Leigh are fundraising for their library to remain fully staffed and this will come into effect in April 2015.

North Leigh resident Judith Wardle, who campaigned against the closures as the chairman of Save Oxfordshire Libraries, said: “It is going to be very difficult to know whether it will work or not.

“They will have to have a constant stream of reliable volunteers and the places which are going to be most reliant on volunteers are the most rural parts of the county.

“I know that in Burford they were struggling to find people, but they are going ahead.

“For the sake of the libraries I hope that it does work.”

2/3 staff and 1/3 volunteers

  • Chinnor (volunteering introduced)
  • Faringdon (volunteering introduced)
  • Grove (volunteering introduced)
  • Wheatley (being introduced in October)
  • Woodstock (volunteering introduced)

2/3 volunteers and 1/3 staff

  • Adderbury (volunteering introduced)
  • Bampton
  • Benson (volunteering introduced)
  • Burford (being introduced in October)
  • Charlbury (volunteering introduced)
  • Deddington (being introduced in October)
  • Goring (volunteering introduced)
  • Hook Norton (volunteering introduced)
  • Kennington (being introduced in October)
  • North Leigh
  • Old Marston (volunteering due to be introduced on September 9)
  • Sonning Common (volunteering introduced)
  • Stonesfield (volunteering introduced)
  • Watlington (being introduced in January)
  • Woodcote (being introduced in January)
  • Wychwood (introduced in October)
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