Libraries in the borough could be privatised under new plans considered by the council.

Richmond Council has been carrying out a review into how it can change its delivery of library services, including outsourcing them to the private sector or allowing an orgainisation such as a charitable trust to manage them.

The Friends of Richmond Libraries group, part of the Arts Richmond arts council, met with the authority before Christmas to discuss the proposals.

Francis Bennett, chairman of Friends of Richmond Libraries, was opposed to privatisation.

He said: “I would be very opposed to that personally. I’m a professional publisher, I have been all my life, and I just believe that’s not the answer to the problem.

“I’ve always thought librarians ought to be able to get on with their jobs.

“I’ve always felt that libraries should be run by professional librarians and I don’t like the idea of giving it out to professional organisations. What the council decide the council will decide, we’ll have to see.”

He praised Ian Dodds, the council’s chief librarian, for saving money without damaging the borough’s library services, but said he was “realistic” that closures may be inevitable.

The authority said it has completed a public consultation that assessed how to “provide better value for money but also encourage people to use our libraries more”.

It has seen a drop in the number of visitors aged between 16 and 44.

Councillor Pamela Fleming, strategic cabinet member for community development at Richmond Council, said libraries needed to evolve to meet users’ changing needs.

She said: “We are currently carrying out a full review of the library service and an assessment of different delivery models, and will be taking a paper to cabinet in February with a number of options.

“These include outsourcing services to the private sector, shared services with other local authorities, and the management of libraries through a devolved organisation such as a charitable trust, among others.

“However, no decisions have been made at this stage and we will consult residents further before making a final decision.”

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