The future of Southend’s libraries looks secure after plans emerged to keep at least one paid member of staff in each one.
A review into the borough’s libraries, currently being done by the Independent, Lib Dem, and Labour administration, is to propose that the facilities should not be completely reliant on volunteers.
The previous Tory administration put in place changes to the borough’s libraries in a bid to shave £378,000 over three years, which led to mass demonstrations.
The changes included making Westcliff and Southchurch Libraries volunteer-run only, but the new administration put the plans on ice after taking office in June and could now staff them.
David Webb, 38, from the Westcliff Library users group, said: “In principle it is a good step to have a member of staff at the library as that will give the volunteers a chance to learn from them.
“I think customers will feel more at ease having a full-time member of staff in the building, and I was concerned whether having it fully volunteered would work out.
“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect one member of staff to be in each of the borough’s libraries.”
Westcliff library was the third most popular library in the borough in 2012/13 with 76,728 visitors, but along with Southchurch library, was earmarked to be solely staffed by volunteers.
Leigh and Kent Elms libraries would be kept open with a limited number of paid staff under the Tory proposals.
Campaigners were skeptical whether the volunteer run libraries would continue in the long term, but the new plans for staffing them will be looked at next month.
Lib Dem Graham Longely, councillor responsible for enterprise, tourism, and regeneration, said: “I will be producing the review as a package to next month’s cabinet, as opposed to going through each library individually.
“The review will be based on a series of recommendations but I’m not going to comment on information that may or may not be right ahead of the report coming out.”