Cuts to Library budgets across the country will mean less staff available and a reduction in opening hours for the public, the Mid Ulster Mail has learned.
Libraries NI have confirmed that they are required to save £1.4m from their budget across Northern Ireland by March 2015, which includes cuts to the staffing budget.
It is understood that around four members of staff have been released from their roles in Cookstown Library as a result of budget constraints.
Local residents have expressed their concerns at a reduction in opening hours already implemented at Cookstown Library.
One resident reported that a room in the library which a local group used for meeting is no longer available to them.
In a statement from Libraries NI to the Mid Ulster Mail, they said: “Library services across Northern Ireland will be affected as vacancies may not be filled and agency cover will be reviewed for possible release.
“This is a regrettable course of action as agency staff have provided a valuable service.
“Further measures will regrettably have to include a review of branch opening hours. “This process will take place during October and it is anticipated that planned temporary changes will be implemented from 1 November onwards.
“In the interim there may be temporary ad hoc reductions in opening hours in many areas. The aim will be to minimise disruption whilst protecting core library services. We will make every effort to inform customers of changes to opening hours in advance.”
Irene Knox, Libraries NI Chief Executive said: “Since its formation in 2009, Libraries NI has made significant efficiency savings and there are limited options available for the organisation to save further money. Library services have impacted positively on many people’s lives and Libraries NI remains committed to providing high quality services supported by skilled, experienced staff.
“I want to apologise to our customers and staff members in advance for any disruption they experience. This situation is extremely difficult and we will work with all involved to seek to maintain and support core library services.”
UUP MLA Sandra Overend, lent her support to the Libraries in Mid-Ulster following news of budgetary cuts affecting services.
Mrs Overend, who is the Assembly Private Secretary to the Minister for Regional Development, said, “Libraries are a vital local service across Northern Ireland, and Mid-Ulster is no different. We have some excellent library facilities here, and I am saddened to learn that services are being affected by budgetary problems in DCAL. Libraries are no longer just places where members of the public can lend books, but have excellent IT facilities which are a vital asset for not only so many of our local students, but also for large numbers of the general public.”
Mrs Overend added:
“I have submitted Questions to the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure on this matter, and hope that her answers can shed some light on the effects these cuts will have.”