OXFORDSHIRE has 43 libraries: are they all safe in this austerity era of cuts to public spending? I put that question to Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, the county council cabinet member for libraries.

She told me: “The council is looking at every brick and every piece of paper for savings and the library service can’t be immune from this. We need to save £1m out of a budget of £7.5m and that has to be realised by 2018/19. This is a big ‘ask’ but it’s a matter of ‘we have to’.”

How is she going to make these savings?

“The entire mobile library fleet of seven vans will be cut on September 30 saving £350,000. This will result in the jobs of 13 people being at risk. Out of these seven vans two are specialist ones that deal only with schools. The cut in this school link is not good and I’m very sorry about it. But then we work with some schools like Littlemore and Sonning Common where the library is in the school complex.

In Berinsfield the library is a stroll away from the school. I know teachers there make lots of visits with their pupils. Some are keen to do that; some are not. Quite honestly it’s patchy.”

“For the other five mobile library vans we are compensating by increasing the Home Library Service where volunteers visit the elderly and isolated and find out what kind of books they want and arrange for these to be delivered to the local pub or shop so a volunteer can deliver them. They have access to the whole county library service of 886,982 books plus a selection of ebooks.

“The further £650,000 will come from a reduction in the book buying fund of £500,000, a contribution from library reserve funds [past savings], library management and staffing reorganisation and retendering the library management and IT system.

That last point is interesting because central Government made a grant of £86,000 to the council to install wi-fi in all our libraries. Before today only 15 out of the 43 had wi-fi, now from April 16 all 43 libraries will be connected to the internet.”

This is where Lorraine Lindsay-Gale’s vision for the future kicks in: “People will be able to use this technology in their local library to access both local and national Government services. We want to present our libraries as the council’s front doors. We started this review with 43 libraries and we still have 43 libraries.

“We will incorporate customer service staff with the library staff. Both groups will be trained in the IT and some of the customer service staff will be located in the libraries. We want to co-locate services, and by that I mean if the accommodation is suitable we can put the children’s centres and the day care centres for the elderly in the libraries. This would be great for everyone because it would bring the community together.”

How was she going to entice more children, OAPs and teens into the libraries?

“We want to make them enjoyable spaces and have coffee shops in the county libraries. That’s the plan. We don’t know exactly how to do it, but the Adderbury library has a successful coffee shop and the Kennington library is planning to do that. If they can, the others can.

“If a community came forward with something they wanted and we could accommodate it, we would do that. For instance in Henley where we have a rhyme-time play group for toddlers. A group of about 50 Russian families wanted a special rhyme-time for them so the women could come and learn English and at the same time entertain their children with English language books. Now a group of usually 10 children and eight adults meets every Tuesday afternoon during term time.

“For teenagers all libraries have a store of graphic novels and we won’t cut down on that.

“Many older people want to use the library service to research their ancestors. They can use the internet and they have access to the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire which has already published 17 out of 23 planned volumes with comprehensive coverage of every town, village and parish in the county. The Oxfordshire model of having ‘community libraries’ rests on the bedrock of volunteers.

“Other counties have followed our model which incorporates many volunteers. Last year 831 people supported their local libraries as volunteers providing 22,000 hours of help. I’d like to give them a big ‘thank-you’. Without them this success story would not have happened.”

But how successful was the story? I asked about the plans to take a further 27 full time employees out of the staffing total of 192 full-timers. Where will the axe fall? Lorraine couldn’t answer that.

“We are going to start a review of the whole service shortly, consult on this in the autumn and implement changes in 2018. There will be changes in staffing levels. This will inevitably follow the review, but I’m not able to give you any specifics until after the consultation.” That was her answer on Friday last week.

On Monday this week I received a text from her saying: “There has been a decision taken that there will be no library service review this year. So it will mean no further changes for now.”

Is this a victory for people power? I don’t know. But I talked with Marcus Ferrar, head of the Summertown library committee, and he told me that at a recent meeting with Lorraine Lindsay-Gale she vowed to the committee: “I’m not going to let them get at my libraries any more.”