Cuts to local library opening hours introduced as a temporary measure last year are to be largely maintained, Libraries NI has confirmed.
Between April 2014 and November 2014 the opening hours at the Central Library, Waterside, Strathfoyle, Creggan, Shantallow, Limavady and Dungiven, were all reduced.
Now, following a policy review, the Board of Libraries NI, are proposing that the majority of the cuts be maintained from October 2015.
At the Central Library the hours were reduced from 57 to 54.5 hours last year.
According to Libraries NI the city’s main library will open for 54 hours a week from October.
During the same period opening hours at the Waterside library fell from 48 to 45.5. They will remain at 45 hours from October.
And at Strathfoyle (maintained at 30 between April 2014 and November 2014; down to 28 from October 2015); Creggan (down from 30 to 26; up to 28 from October); and Limavady (down from 48 to 45.5; down to 40 from October) cuts will also be sustained.
Professor Bernard Cullen, Chairperson of Libraries NI, said: “Libraries NI was obliged to reduce opening hours at short notice in November 2014 due to in-year budget cuts.
“The purpose of this exercise has been to develop a policy following proper consultation as the basis for determining library opening hours. The Board has also agreed the number of hours that each library across Northern Ireland will open from October 2015.
“The Board recognises that reducing opening hours reduces access to services and will impact on library users.
“This decision has not been taken lightly and is a better option than closing libraries.
“We would like to acknowledge the DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín’s decision to provide a measure of protection for Libraries NI in the Draft Budget 2015/16 to ensure that there would be no library closures.”
Libraries NI held a public consultation on the proposed opening hours policy and proposals and was pleased to receive almost 4,000 responses.
After due consideration of the feedback received, the Board of Libraries NI approved the policy which had been amended to take account of views expressed in the consultation.
The policy involves all public libraries being categorised into bands based on level of use, with the revised opening hours reflecting this use.
The public consultation, which focused on the policy and the proposed opening hours for each library, included an equality impact assessment and a rural impact assessment.
Following on from this Board decision, Libraries NI will now undertake a further period of local engagement with customers.
Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said: “We recognise that the review of library opening hours is difficult for our customers and our staff and we would like to thank everyone who has engaged with us during this process. Current library opening hours will remain unchanged until there has been a further period of engagement with customers regarding the actual pattern of opening hours in every library”.
This further period of consultation will take place from Monday (May 18) until Saturday (June 13) and the resulting opening hours’ pattern will be implemented in October 2015.
Further information on the consultation and details of the revised opening hours for all libraries, can be found on the Libraries NI website www.librariesni.org.uk