People invited to have their say on a major shake up of Devon Library Service, which could see some smaller libraries forced to close.

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A public consultation on Devon County Council’s proposals for the future of its library service got underway yesterday (Thursday).

The 13 week consultation is exploring proposals to create a network of 22 ‘Devon Centres’ at the county’s busiest libraries, which the council says accounts for almost 80 per cent of the total library usage.

There are fears in North Devon smaller libraries such as Combe Martin, Braunton, Appledore, Northam, Chulmleigh and Lynton could be forced to close, but the council says it wants to hear from communities to identify how they could be sustained in future.

This could include running them with help from community groups, such as Friends of Appledore Library, which has taken a leading role in its local library in recent years.

A series of drop in sessions will be held at libraries from April 28 to June 25 to give people an opportunity to give their views on the proposals.

The proposals are in response to the need to make savings of £1.5 million over the next three years and what the council says are the changing ways people use libraries.

It says book lending remains a core service with more than 138,000 people using Devon libraries in 2012/13 but more people are using the service to access reading material and information online and in new formats.

A finalised set of proposals will go before the council’s Cabinet in September.

Councillor Roger Croad, Cabinet Member responsible for the library service, said: “Libraries are well-loved and highly valued by local communities, but we need to find the most sustainable way for them to continue in future.

“We all want a service which provides a safe, welcoming space within our communities as well as providing access to high quality information and promoting a love of reading. We’re keen to develop a set of proposals which ensure that libraries deliver the huge potential they can offer to support local needs.

“This consultation is an opportunity for people to give us their views and suggestions on how they would like these important services continue while also reducing costs.”

Information on the consultation is available at www.toughchoices.co.uk as well as in libraries and through the mobile library service, and ideas and comments can be emailed to librarystrategyfeedback@devon.gov.uk

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