AN under-threat library would close within two years if handed over to volunteers to run, users have warned.

The Friends of Kent Elms Library has warned the library, where visits rose by 12.7 per cent between 2008/09 and 2010/11, would “wither and die” if paid staff were axed.

Southend Council has proposed either Kent Elms or Leigh library be handed over to volunteers to run as a “community library” as part of a shake-up aimed at saving £378,000 over the next three years.

Mark Flewitt, who founded the Friends group, said: “The demographics of this area don’t suggest a community group would be willing to take on an ongoing project such as this and we believe Eastwood residents would be left with a pale imitation of the library service they enjoy now. A community library would wither and die within a couple of years.”

Member Pam Farley, 68, of Collins Way, Eastwood, said: “My feeling is we need to keep the paid staff that we have got. We would be scratching around for volunteers. Everyone has a busy life.”