A CHINK of hope could be on the horizon for two rural libraries to be shelved in north Lancashire.

The unpopular closures at Silverdale and Bolton-le-Sands were among major budget cuts agreed by Lancashire County Council's cabinet.

The decision has caused bitter disappointment among villagers. Dozens of Silverdale residents carrying 'save our library' placards staged a protest outside the building on Saturday.

Margaret Mackintosh, one of the organisers, told the Gazette of their frustration that Silverdale had been poised to be the country's first "one-gigabit library" with the arrival of hyperfast broadband in the village last week.

However, it emerged yesterday (Wednesday) that the decision to close the libraries may be looked at afresh.

Several county councillors have requested a special meeting of the council's scrutiny committee, to consider whether to 'call in' the cabinet decision to close more than 100 properties, including 32 buildings with libraries. The council says it needs to save a further £150m by 2020/21.

If the decision is called in on September 22, the cabinet will be asked to reconsider its decision.

Silverdale resident Mrs Mackintosh welcomed the news as "a chink" of hope, saying: "Everybody on Saturday said that all we need is a foot in the door."

She told the Gazette it was 'ironic' that only last week Silverdale had been connected to hyperfast 1,000Mbps fibre-optic broadband, thanks to the efforts of the community-led B4RN project (Broadband for the Rural North). She said that a link-up could have transformed services at the library, from digital books to Skype, internet research and learning - leading to Silverdale becoming a flagship library for the county.

"There isn't another gigabit library in the country," she said, "and it could be so massive for Lancashire. To close it seems so ironic, just when there's this huge opportunity."

Chris Condor MBE, director of B4RN, told the Gazette: "There's a great potential to really bring that library on instead of closing it. They could have provided a hotspot for people and researchers. A really good facility like that with one-gigabit should not have shut."

More than 100 people have 'liked' the Support Silverdale Library page on Facebook, including Texan film-maker Jason LaMotte, whose 2015 short The Library celebrated his love of neighbourhood libraries.

Mrs Mackintosh said villagers wanted the library to stay open as part of the Lancashire County Council (LCC) network. She said efforts by Silverdale Parish Council and residents to save the building had not been helped by two factors - difficulty in getting information from LCC, and lack of contact from their county councillor, Alycia James.

The Gazette was unable to contact Cllr James for a comment by telephone or email yesterday (Wednesday).

A county council spokesman told the Gazette that a package of help had been proposed to help establish any community-run library, including £5,000 to cover set-up costs. The libraries would be independent. "Those that made expressions of interest have been sent information on the costs of running the buildings," the spokesman added.

In Bolton-le-Sands, parish council chairman Keith Budden told the Gazette of the community's great sadness at the decision to shut its library, built in 1973.

Meanwhile, Carnforth Town Council said it was 'delighted' that the town's library had been reprieved by LCC.