CAMPAIGNERS for two much-missed village libraries in north Lancashire have given a cautious welcome to plans for re-opening.

Bolton-le-Sands and Silverdale libraries were among 26 shelved by Labour-run Lancashire County Council as part of £200 million budget cuts last year.

Since the September closures, readers in the two villages have been travelling to Carnforth library to borrow books, while action groups have been working on bids to take over the buildings and run them as independent community libraries.


Now, since the change to a Conservative-run county council following the May elections, the council is proposing to reopen those libraries that closed last year.

Cabinet members will today (Thursday) decide whether to restore a full library service at locations including Main Road, Bolton-le-Sands, and Emesgate Lane, Silverdale, potentially between November 2017 and April 2018.

Cllr Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services, has met with village campaigners recently. He said: "Libraries are a vital service at the heart of our communities, offering free access to books and information, as well as being a place where communities can get together.

"That is why we're proposing to reopen libraries which were closed, as well as safeguarding full library services at six libraries which had been due to close or see the level of service reduced.

"A significant amount of activity will be needed to reopen the libraries which were closed. This will include building assessments and carrying out work to improve the condition of some buildings, recruiting and training staff, reconnecting ICT and other infrastructure, and re-allocating book stock.

"Building surveys are already under way and the next step will be to produce a detailed timeline for libraries reopening. While some require minimal work in order to reopen, at this stage we're anticipating that most will reopen between this autumn and spring next year."

Margaret Mackintosh, a campaigner to keep Silverdale library open, told the Gazette: "There have been so many hopeful signs previously, we are just hoping this will manifest itself." She described the Emesgate Lane property as "like the Marie Celeste" because books were still in situ, unlike at some other libraries where assets had been stripped out.

"Of course we are very pleased," she said of LCC's change of heart, "but don't forget we've been on a very long, up-and-down journey. I think there is a genuine commitment on behalf of the county councillors to do this but it's not going to be without its problems for them."

Travelling to Carnforth library had been tricky for older villagers with mobility problems, said Mrs Mackintosh. "Just the other day I saw a lady struggling. She had missed the bus with the bag of books she had ordered online to pick up. I gave her a lift home in the end."

Silverdale Parish Council chairman John Bennett said campaigners had done extensive research, including visits to other community libraries, and 60 volunteers had signed up to help.

Cllr Bennett said the working group had "pivotal" unanswered questions about the library's future status, such as whether LCC would rotate and refresh the book stock, and whether the reopened library would have a computerised management system.

In Bolton-le-Sands, Vince Hart, of the library action group, said dozens of residents have pledged their support for reopening. Mr Hart said he was a little "sceptical" about how LCC would pay for an adequate library service, but at least 20 residents had offered to volunteer as librarians to make up any shortfall.

The building had been a popular place for elderly people to meet and chat, said Mr Hart, adding: "The social isolation that has arisen as a result of the closure is unprecedented."