PEOPLE power has won the day - all Oxfordshire's libraries will stay open.

The county council's museums, arts, libraries and leisure committee demanded an extra £300,000 to save every one of the county's 43 libraries at yesterday's key meeting.

It was a victory for the public, more than 14,000 of whom campaigned to keep their libraries.

Hundreds showed up for yesterday's seven-hour meeting, several dozen staying until the end.

The relief was greatest among users of the eight libraries on the final shortlist for closure - Botley, Bury Knowle, Peers, Old Marston, Grove, North Leigh, Stonesfield and Kennington.

Charles Peers, chairman of governors at Peers School, which shares its library with people in Littlemore, Oxford, said: "This is an utter relief. I'm delighted that common sense has prevailed and I only hope that other services aren't going to suffer for it."

Ag MacKeith, of the Friends of Botley library group, which arranged a 2,600-signature petition, agreed.

"That's a blessed relief. Quality is not so important as the fact they are there. I'm glad that view prevailed," she said.

People in Grove also formed a Friends group to plead on behalf of their library. Their spokeswoman Ros Hicks told the Oxford Mail she was happy with the decision - as long as the full council agreed to put the extra £300,000 into libraries.

Headington councillor Alex Hollingsworth said: "Bury Knowle library has a huge catchment area and is a valuable public resource. It is one of the best things about Headington." and I'm absolutely delighted it's being kept open

Roy Garner, clerk of Old Marston parish council, spoke up for the local library at yesterday's meeting. Afterwards he said: "Everybody will be saying whoopee. I think the parish must be pleased by this."

And in Kennington, where the parish council had already agreed to find £5,000 a year to keep their library open, the no closures decision meant people could hang on to some of their cash.

Parish council clerk George Ross said: "Kennington are delighted."

North Leigh library campaigner Barry Norton said: "There will be a great deal of relief from people around here that the library is to remain open."

He added that because the library only had limited opening hours a reduction would have a severe impact and added the West Oxfordshire District Council would be looking at ways to plug any gaps.

Stonesfield's county councillor Brian Hodgson said: "I think it would be very difficult for the full council to reverse the decision because there is such a strong campaign to save all the libraries, which took even the keenest members of the libraries committee by surprise."

There was a large group from the Friends of Benson Library at the meeting - although Benson was not on the recommended closure list.

Mrs Sue Leppard, one of the Benson campaigners, said: "I'm pleased that no libraries are being closed. Members of this committee seem quite confident that the decision will stand."

Ms Nina Sutton, an officer with trade union Unison, said: "I think it's the best we could hope for really. We don't want to see a cut in library staff hours."

The committee's decision must be confirmed by full council on February 10 to discuss its final spending plans. If £300,000 is found to keep libraries open cuts of more than £400,000 will still have to be made by:

reducing opening hours at all libraries

getting rid of one of Oxfordshire's eight mobile libraries

saving £16,000 on staff costs

cutting the £1m book fund by nearly £200,000.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.