Fears for future of library?

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A COUNCILLOR fears that library bosses are aiming to shut one branch “by the back door.”

A Standish councillor claimed today that new automated book-lending procedures are putting off older and less computer-savvy readers who form a major proportion of the village’s membership.

He fears the system will put sufficient people off borrowing to drop the annual lending figures below an economic level for the branch to continue.

Standish Independent Coun George Fairhurst fought hard with Wigan and Culture Leisure Trust and Wigan Council to make sure that the library wasn’t closed under a restructuring programme.

Now he says a number of members have approached him about the complexities of lending a book under the new ‘self service’ system.

He says he has been told that a number of services run from the centre are to end, including the monthly five to 10-year-old craft club is stopping, the coffee and chat sessions, the art group, ancestry drop-in sessions and author visits.

He said: “One elderly resident who regularly visits the library and is not computer literate, wanted the staff to help but the staff told her they have been ordered not to.

“At the weekend, people were queuing up, shaking their heads and then leaving without any books saying it was all too much bother to use the new automatic service. I saw one couple put their books down and say they were going to sign on at Chorley where there are proper librarians.”

A spokesman for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust said it had carried out a review of the library service to save more than £1.1m while at the same time ensuring areas continue to have access to library provision.

He said: “In the case of Standish, this has resulted in opening hours increasing and the introduction of self-service.

“Staff are on hand and more than happy to help show people how to use self-service.

“There will continue to be a full range of activities for residents to enjoy. However, as opening hours change and staff with expertise in delivering certain workshops relocate, the times and types of some activities may change.

“That said, we are committed to providing cost effective events that communities value and support which enhance reading.”