MUCH-loved libraries in Silverdale and Bolton-le-Sands have loaned their final books this week after 11th-hour hopes of saving them were dashed.

Margaret Mackintosh, a leading light in the Facebook campaign to keep Silverdale library open, described the decision by Lancashire County Council as "depressing and disturbing" as well as "predetermined, cold and calculated".

Campaigners had hoped that the arrival of hyperfast, fibre optic broadband in Silverdale could lead to the Emesgate Lane building becoming the country's first "one-gigabit library" - leading to a transformation of digital services and even a potentially crucial role during emergencies and disasters.

However, hope finally expired for Silverdale and Bolton-le-Sands library users on Monday, when the county council's cabinet met to reconsider its decision to close more than 100 properties, saving £150 million.

Silverdale resident Mrs Mackintosh told the Gazette she watched the meeting via webcast in dismay, as councillors "shouted each other down" with "party political point scoring" rather than heeding villagers' concerns.

She said that Cllr Geoff Driver, for Preston North, was the only cabinet member who called for a delay in the closures and offered ideas for meeting costs.

The cabinet decision came just four days after the council's scrutiny committee decided to 'call in' the decision to close dozens of buildings.

A letter from Silverdale library supporters was read out last Thursday to the scrutiny committee, spelling out concerns including:

L the nearest library being five miles away in Carnforth, with public transport 'limited'

L the many elderly residents in Silverdale "for whom the library is a very important part of their lives"

L the loss of guidance and information on everything from bus passes to council tax benefits from the 'experienced' librarian

L and the fact that all pupils at Silverdale Primary School and Bleasdale School are library members and visit regularly, helping to "engender a love of literature and learning".

Annabelle Jordan Bush, a concerned Silverdale villager, explained: "Most Silverdale residents agree that the library is our village hub, and the advent of B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) now being live in the village gives internet users the kind of scope and range undreamed of before, an aspect which is of huge significance and importance to library users."

She added: "Becoming the UK's first gigabit library should be a trailblazer for Lancashire County Council, showing the way for the rest of the country to follow. To now find that the library faces imminent closure is heartbreaking."

A county council spokesman told the Gazette that "for the time being" no librarians would lose their jobs, and they would carry on working at other libraries.

He said the council was still open to communities coming forward with business cases for the future use of the redundant buildings.