LIBRARIES across the district will have their opening hours slashed and their doors closed to the public as council spending cuts continue to bite.

Hertfordshire County Council, responsible for the upkeep and operation of the county’s library buildings, is battling to save some £150million over the next three years and has vowed “to squeeze every penny” in order to do so.

By October last year it had earmarked up to £110million of savings, but was left with a shortfall of £40million to address before its budget is finalised at the end of next month.

Armed with the results of a county-wide public consultation, the authority has drawn up detailed plans to trim 661 hours from opening times across the county.

It is anticipated that £580,000 will be saved in 2011/12 and £1.4million in 2012/13 and 2013/14 if the recommendations are agreed by the council’s ruling cabinet at a meeting on Monday.

If agreed, local libraries will be affected as follows:

  • St Albans: weekly opening hours to be cut from 65 to 51. On Mondays and Thursdays the building will open five hours later at 2pm and close one hour later at 7pm.

    On Tuesdays and Wednesdays it will close one hour earlier at 7pm. On Fridays it would open and close one hour earlier. No change is planned for weekends.

  • Harpenden: weekly hours cut from 56 to 37. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays opening hours would remain unchanged, but it would be closed all day on Wednesday and opened (four hours later) at 2pm on Tuesdays and Fridays
  • London Colney would see its hours cut by just four, with the building closed all day on a Wednesday.
  • Marshalswick would close one hour earlier (at 6pm) on Mondays and Thursdays and will be closed all day (a reduction of nine hours) on Tuesdays. Six hours will be lost on Wednesdays and Fridays when opening hours would be 2pm – 6pm.

    Opening hours, however, would be extended by three hours (to 4pm) on Saturdays.

  • Redbourn would lose only four hours, with the building closed all day on Thursdays
  • Wheathampstead would also lose four hours by closing all day on Friday.

A decision will also be made on a proposal to slash the service provided by the fleet of mobile libraries by withdrawing vehicles and reducing stops by the remaining fleet. This would save more than £600,000 over the next three years.

In Chiswell Green, where more than 200 residents signed a petition demanding “save our mobile library”, the current two stops would be reduced to one, with the Tennyson Road stop scrapped in favour of the remaining stop outside The Three Hammers pub, in Chiswell Green Lane.

What do you think of the planned hours reductions? How will it affect you? Let us know by commenting below.