VOLUNTEERS could be helping to run Leigh Library by the autumn after almost 30 people stepped forward at a public meeting.

Southend Council hopes to have enough volunteers to keep one paid librarian at any one time in the Grade II listed building, in Broadway West, after people signed up at a meeting on Monday.

The council hopes to begin training volunteers by the beginning of May, with them in post by the end of the summer or beginning of the autumn.

Volunteers must contribute up to 80 hours between them a week, with the council keeping on three or four paid staff.

Volunteer Bridget Morriss, 76, from Leigh, said: “It would be a tragedy if it closed. I’m more than happy to make any contribution I can.”

Leigh Library has split its staffing budget with Kent Elms Library as part of a shake-up of the library service designed to save £378,000 over three years.

Volunteers will sort books, perform admin tasks and help customers use computers.

Simon May, the council’s library services manager, said: “We expect to need 60 to 80 hours of volunteer time a week, which doesn’t seem a great amount.

“We expect it to work if peoplework with us. We need to make sure the answer we have works for Leigh.”

Nick Harris, head of culture, said: “There is strong commitment from people I have spoken to. They are keen to get involved, value the library service and support its future through volunteering.”