Northern Ireland

Libraries NI: Opening hours could be cut at 14 premises under plans

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Media captionA public consultation on the plans has been launched, as Robbie Meredith reports

Opening hours at the 14 busiest libraries in Northern Ireland are set to be cut under plans revealed by Libraries NI.

Under the proposals, some libraries will close for an extra day every week.

Libraries NI said the move was needed to make savings due to reductions in their budget.

Their budget has been reduced from £29.4m in 2015-16 to £27.7m in 2016-17, but Libraries NI said that is a cut of over £2m in real terms.

All of the libraries affected would have their opening hours reduced to 45 hours per week.

Image caption Libraries NI chief executive Irene Knox said the organisation would listen to any concerns raised

This would mean that Belfast Central, Bangor Carnegie, Derry Central, Lisburn City and Omagh libraries are open for nine fewer hours per week.

Other libraries in Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Finaghy, Glengormley, Lurgan and Newry would open for five fewer hours per week.

A number of these libraries had previously had their opening hours cut in 2015, and they now face a further cut.

Libraries NI's chief executive Irene Knox said that the organisation had little option but to reduce opening hours.

"This is not the ideal situation, however, we must plan for and consider our budget for the year ahead," she said.

Image caption A public consultation on the plans has been launched

"We will continue to liaise with staff, customers and stakeholders throughout this process and we will listen to any concerns raised.

"If our circumstances change, and additional funding is made available, then it will be used to minimise the reductions in library opening hours."

Libraries NI have launched a public consultation on the plans.

The most recent figures released by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) showed that there had been a rise in the number of people using libraries in Northern Ireland.

A total of 309,756 people used libraries in 2014-15, an increase of 3% from 2013-14.

The new Department for Communities is now responsible for library provision.

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