DOZENS of residents gathered at Ilkley Library to hear Bradford Council’s proposals about how the service will change to accommodate planned £2 million cuts from the libraries budget over the next two years.

The council’s head of libraries and museums, Maggie Pedley, addressed the public meeting on Friday evening to discuss what would need to be done to save the money.

The main proposals involve libraries becoming “community hubs” which offer a wide range of services beyond the usual book lending.

Ilkley would be in a cluster of libraries headed up by Keighley. There would be three such clusters around the Bradford district.

In the financial year beginning in April, £950,000 has to be saved from the libraries budget, which overall is currently just over £3 million. Mrs Pedley said that £420,000 of this has been accounted for with the way the lease on the Bradford City Library is financed.

That leaves £530,000 to save in the coming financial year, which will be achieved under the proposals — which have to be ratified by the council — via staffing levels, sharing resources and reducing the budget for buying books and other materials by 30 per cent.

In the following financial year a further £1 million has to be cut from the budget, in effect slashing the expenditure on libraries by two thirds over the two years.

Asked if this meant there would inevitably be library closures, Mrs Pedley said it was the council’s “ambition” not to close any libraries, and that while she could not guarantee anything she “hoped not”.

There were concerns raised at the public meeting that Ilkley would fall under the auspices of Keighley. Coun Martin Smith said he was concerned that there would not be control over the Ilkley library under the cluster scheme and asked: “Why can’t there be an Ilkley and Wharfedale hub?”

Mrs Pedley indicated that the cluster idea could change, and said: “If we can put a strong enough case then there’s no reason why that could not happen, but we have to start somewhere.”

Town Councillor Mark Stidworthy asked if there was a need to form a “Friends of Ilkley Library”-style pressure group to ensure that Ilkley’s needs were catered for.

He was told that an increased level of public interest in the future of the library would not hurt, as would continued usage of the library.

Though the budget changes have to be approved before the new financial year in April, Mrs Pedley said it was unlikely the bulk of the changes would be made before July.

Many people were concerned that the changes to a community hub would reduce the library offer. One woman said: “I am not fussed about the library becoming a community hub. I brought my children here and now I bring my grandchildren here. It’s already a wonderful resource for reading.”

And resident Sarah Pressley added: “What I have always loved about this library is that I can find new books to read and I can talk to the staff about books. If I’m representative of how people enjoy using this space, then we want to know what we need to do to make sure this is a place where people can enjoy books and improve literacy.”