Dorset libraries to be run by volunteers

Volunteers are set to take over the running of seven rural Dorset libraries in September which had originally been earmarked for closure.

The county council has approved business plans submitted by the seven community groups, who will fund and maintain the buildings.

IT services and a regular supply of new books would be provided by the council.

Two libraries in Corfe Castle and Portland Underhill, Dorset, are still scheduled to close.

'Very encouraging'

The seven planned community libraries are in Chickerell, Puddletown, Wool, Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Colehill and Stalbridge.

Mike Chaney, spokesman for the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries (AdLib), said of the original planned closures: "It's probably only a minority of people affected, the elderly, the poor and the young.

"But they are the very people who are coming out worst in all the belt-tightening across the country.

"We think this is a community worth providing for as a volunteer."

In July 2011, the Conservative-led county council voted to withdraw funding from nine libraries to save £800,000 a year by 2012.

Under the new plans the council would provide £5,500 a year for staffing, books and IT services, with other costs covered by the volunteers.

Mr Chaney, who is also chairman of the Friends of Puddletown Library, said volunteers at his local library would be paying about £3,500 a year for rent, lighting, heating and insurance.

Funds would be raised by membership subscriptions and donations from the local community.

Dorset County Council's head of community services Paul Leivers said the plans for community-run libraries were "very encouraging" and added that the council would ensure "buildings are in a reasonable condition" before handing them over.

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