Library service to change in Neath Port Talbot
IT is not a closed book yet — but it is certain that things are going to be changing within the library service across Neath Port Talbot.
The authority is launching a community consultation exercise on proposals to overhaul the library service at a time it faces significant cuts to its budgets.
Bosses are currently dealing with a budget shortfall of at least £21 million over the next few years.
It means that nine libraries across the county are facing closure — Cwmllynfell, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Seven Sisters, Ystalyfera, Blaengwynfi, Briton Ferry, Taibach, Cymmer and Resolven Library.
If closed, they will make a total saving of £238,143.
Ystalyfera councillor, Alun Llewelyn has raised his concerns about the proposals and town councillors in Briton Ferry have called for their library building — which is listed — to be saved.
Briton Ferry mayor Susan Davies said the news about the proposed closure had "hit her hard".
"I felt like I had been hit like a thunderbolt," she said.
"They have been talking about it a long time ago, but I did not know it was on the agenda again."
In June a new computer room was installed in the library, replacing the Cyberzone at Llansawel Community House, which closed in December.
The launch was attended by Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty Jeff Cuthbert.
At a meeting held at the library, town council leader Barry Cosker, said: "The head of partnership and community development, Russell Ward, is the man who put the Cyberzone here. I think we should write to him for a meeting to discuss this with him.
"In July they were singing our praises with the computer suite.
"Now months later they are going to shut it down."
But there are hopes that the library can remain open.
Councillor Hugh James said: "What is going for us is the building, because it is a very historical building.
"We have got to be pro-action and get together. If we put our minds to it we can get grants for it and it into an even better building."
Skewen resident and author Lex Sinclair said he disagreed with the proposals put forward by the council.
"I, and a lot of other citizens, use the library facilities on a daily basis; without it I'm not sure how I could cope," he said.
"Youngsters — like myself — with single parents, who can't afford to buy books depend on the library services.
"Furthermore, many schoolchildren look forward to visiting their local library on a weekly basis.
"Students use the resources for studying, and youngsters who can't study at home or at school after 3pm use the library as a rendezvous to do their homework.
"I would be very disappointed with the council bosses if they closed the libraries as a short term plan to save some extra cash."
Community groups and organisations, councillors and interested parties will now be asked to share their views during a consultation exercise.
Library staff and representatives from trade unions will also be consulted in the library service review process and bosses hope to minimise redundancies.
A final report, based upon the consultation, will then be drafted in December.
It is also proposed to change the mobile library from a two week to a three week cycle, so it can cover a wider area to include some of the areas subject to library closures.
Alternative methods and formers of service delivery also include an enhanced home delivery service, relocation of existing libraries, deposit collections, volunteer run libraries, community run libraries and partnership with community councils.