Council bosses insist that libraries will remain open - as donation boxes spark concern over their future
Council chiefs have insisted that library closures are not on the horizon, after the future's service was thrown into question.
It comes after the EDP revealed yesterday that donation boxes had been placed in Norfolk County Council's flagship Millennium Library in Norwich, as a way of clawing back cash from a £1.1m budget cut. But Sarah Hassan, assistant head of the Norfolk Library and Information Service, said that the boxes were just one of a range of measures being considered.
'Times are very hard and we are looking at a whole range of ways of bringing income to the service. The current council is committed to keeping libraries open.
'However, we are living in challenging times and this financial year we have had to reduce the amount we spend,' she said.
The budget for the service, which welcomed four million visitors last year, was slashed in February from £11.4m in 2013 to 2014 to £10.2m this year.
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The boxes, which have also been placed in libraries across north Norfolk, are part of a pilot scheme which has been running for around six weeks. A decision on whether to keep the boxes, and put them into other libraries, will be made in November. On a poll on the EDP website, the issue divided readers, with 53pc voting against libraries installing donation boxes and 47pc saying they should.
But Mrs Hassan said they were not relying on donations – with just £50 collected at the Norwich library so far.
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Instead, the council will be implementing 'common sense and practical approaches' to fill the funding black hole – including cutting staff numbers.
When the budget was slashed in February, it was estimated that about £350,000 would be saved in staff cuts.
'We have a volunteer promotion, we have over 800 volunteers and they do give a lot of value.
'They don't take the place of staff but they do enable us to do things we wouldn't be able to do otherwise,' Mrs Hasssan added.
Charges on borrowing items including DVDs and CDs have also risen.
In 2011, library services across the county were reviewed in a bid to keep branches open. At the time, staff cuts made up most of the £1.2m cuts.
What do you think of the boxes? Email reporter Lauren Cope on firstname.lastname@example.org