COMMUNITY volunteers have launched a bid to provide library services in Wotton following a proposal by the county council to severely reduce the current service.

Wotton-under-Edge Historical Society has announced plans to save the library and its recently refurbished building.

It follows the news last month that Gloucestershire County Council proposes to reduce the service to a ‘Library Link’ in Wotton with just 3.5 hours staffed service a week.

The building would also need to be shared with another organisation or be sold off.

"Wotton does not wish to lose its library facility," said David Baird, chairman of the historical society, which runs the Heritage Centre, based at The Chipping.

"We feel this could provide a unique opportunity for the Heritage Centre to expand its operation and prevent the town from losing a valuable asset."

For the past 15 years the society has operated the Heritage Centre, which includes museum space, research room, souvenir shop and tourist information point, staffed by volunteers 23 hours a week in winter and 28 hours in summer.

Mr Baird said that in fact many of their volunteers were former librarians and were enthusiastic about taking on the role again.

The Heritage Centre would offer to lease the library building and relocate from The Chipping to Ludgate Hill. They would want to alter the current layout to give additional display, research and education opportunities for the Heritage Centre and increased space for the Tourist Information Point and sales area.

The society hopes their offer would have the added benefit of releasing their current space at The Chipping to be used as a youth club if the county council decides, as proposed, to close the Wotton Youth Centre.

Town mayor Dr John Cordwell said that his preferred option would be to retain the library service as it is, but felt that the historical society would be a good choice if the proposal could not be reversed.

"My first choice is to see the library remain as it is and I won’t be giving up on that yet," he said.

"Clearly as a second option the historical society would be worthy partners to run it."

Gloucestershire County Council has been in discussions with public sector partners, such as the police and NHS, about sharing premises, however consultation is still ongoing.

Cllr Antonia Noble, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries, said: "We are proposing to keep a service in the Wotton area by providing a library link, but no decisions will be taken until the consultation period has finished.

"County councillors and officers have set up meetings this week with Wotton Historical Society, the town council and other interested parties in the community and we look forward to discussing their ideas with them."