The Isle of Wight is set to be included in a Government study on how local communities could become involved in running libraries.

The news was relayed to members of the Isle of Council’s cabinet (March 1) as details of new measures to help communities take on the running of some libraries was discussed.

The council has reviewed its library service as part of a package of measures to help it save over £17 million next financial year.

As part of that review, the council will retain direct management of six of its 11 libraries and assist community groups to take over the running of the remaining five. Discussions are also underway that could see new libraries established in locations currently only served by the mobile library service.

That assistance will include allowing community groups to lease existing council-run library buildings at a peppercorn rent. As part of £50,000 worth of further help agreed at last week’s budget, £10,000 will be allocated to help libraries with various costs associated with IT including purchasing the necessary licenses.

A further £40,000 is available to help libraries develop services. This money – available proportionate to the number of people using each – could fund additional hours, help meet training costs or to provide new books.

Cllr George Brown, the cabinet member responsible for libraries told cabinet members that the council’s steps to devolve the power to run local libraries down to local communities had been noted by Government.

Cllr Brown said: “We understand that the Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey MP, asked civil servants to keep a watch on the Isle of Wight after we moved into public consultation in January.

“Since we have developed our proposals, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has told us that the council may be invited to take part in a national study of innovative approaches to library provision; the specific area of interest being the devolution of authority to community bodies.”

Afterwards Cllr Brown added: “As a passionate supporter of libraries who is also acutely aware of the budget pressures the council faces, I am delighted that we now have a model that could well result in the Island maintaining 11 libraries – and at less cost to the council tax payer.

“I am very pleased and grateful that the community has also shown such an active support for the service. It is now up to us as a council to do what we can to assist these local groups run their libraries to meet the needs of their local community.”

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