ELDERLY residents in areas without a library since March are being deprived of a ‘lifeline’ service, campaigners say.

Oxfordshire County Council did not reopen 12 of its 44 libraries between the first and second lockdowns, with ten shut until further notice.

All of the county's facilities closed when the second shutdown started on Thursday, but it makes little difference to the communities that have not had the service for nearly eight months.

This is frustrating for people like Veral Marshall, chair of the Friends of Burford Library group, with no reopening date for the town’s facility in sight.

Read also: Record number join Oxfordshire's libraries in lockdown

She said: “The Friends of Burford Library are very active and we would’ve offered to reopen it ourselves on some basis.

“We can’t really see any reason why it shouldn’t be open along with the others, especially as Burford has a mature population – some of whom find it difficult to get into Witney or Carterton.

“The books are a lifeline for them. It's one of those places where people can speak to each other and be social.”

Burford mayor John White added: “Everybody’s very disappointed that we haven’t been chosen for reopening.

“It’s no more difficult than any of the others.”

Oxford Mail:

Burford mayor John White Picture: Tim Graham

The county council began its phased reopening of libraries on July 13 and 32 had welcomed readers back before the second lockdown.

Facilities at Wheatley and Benson were due to reopen in December and January respectively following refurbishment.

Read also: Oxfordshire library driver delivers PPE around county

But, in addition to Burford, no date has been set for libraries in Adderbury, Bampton, Deddington, Grove, Hook Norton, Littlemore, North Leigh, Old Marston and Stonesfield.

Old Marston Parish Council chair Duncan Hamilton said: “It’s not necessarily a surprise as social distancing would be a problem, but maybe it could open one morning a week.

Oxford Mail:

Old Marston library Picture: Google Maps

“It’s a social hub where you can meet people.

“It isn’t just about books, it’s about the community.”

The county council has extended all book loans until January and will start a click and collect service in 14 libraries today.

A spokesperson said: "Oxfordshire County Council would like to reassure residents that we plan to reopen libraries as soon as it is practical to do so in a safe and sustainable way."