The West Yorkshire town of Kirklees is contemplating closure of all but two of its 26 libraries, along with other services like braille books for blind readers, as one option while it seeks to more than halve its library budget. According to the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Kirklees Council has to find cuts to bring its £6.3 million ($10.7 million) library budget down to £2.8 million ($4.75 million) by 2017.
Kirklees Council leader Clr David Sheard called the all-but-complete-closure plan the “nuclear option,” versus a lesser program of cuts which would save some more of the library network and services, but which also requires a further £1.4 million ($2.38 million). Either way, heavy job cuts are inevitable – 100 jobs lost in the nuclear option, 60 with the lesser option.
According to figures quoted by the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, “Kirklees libraries have 2.2m visits each year but borrowing has reduced to 66,000, with 28,950 visits for IT purposes and 141,668 for other activities.”
It’s salutary to compare this with the situation in the U.S., where under the latest digital inclusion programs, libraries are being used as hubs for local entrepreneurship and government services. Meanwhile, Kirklees is putting out the usual call for volunteers to support at service that it has a statutory obligation to maintain.