A KEIGHLEY group invoked the name of late historian Ian Dewhirst in its appeal to find a way forward for the town library.

Keighley & District Local History Society says the town cannot afford to lose the Bradford Council-owned facility, which has been earmarked as a potential "community hub" within cost-cutting plans.

These proposals to shift other council and community sector services to the premises have triggered concerns that existing provision might be harmed. Bradford Council says it wants to keep all its 29 libraries, but warned there would be redundancies.

The local history society said Mr Dewhirst, who died on January 20, had been aware of threats to Keighley Library and staunchly defended its services. Society chairman Joyce Newton said: "The library has provided a source of self-education for local people for over 100 years.

"One of Ian’s first forays was during the centenary refurbishment of the library, when he complained about the sale of valuable, and often unique, reference books. He was rumoured to have climbed into a skip to rescue ones that couldn't be sold."

She said since 2004 Keighley Library had suffered further losses of books and documents, a two-year closure for refurbishment, and a failure to create a special archive room.

Mrs Newton added: "We need to find a way forward that satisfies all and is achievable.

"One idea would be to let the library return to its roots and become an Educational Hub, to give our children the means to be the free thinkers the country needs.

"We have to ensure we can access locally all the knowledge we need, because many can't afford to access it in distant cities.

"Lending has become less important. Books are available online and those who buy actual books need to dispose of them, mainly to charity shops which can't get rid of them.

"The library could ask for donations of these surplus books to form its own lending collection."

Mrs Newton suggested unique collections of books elsewhere in the UK could be made available in Keighley Library, either online or via a wider book availability system, similar to one already used within Bradford Library Service.

"This would give students the tools they need," she argued. "Funding for this could be sought from somewhere like the Bill Gates Foundation and could lead to country-wide access.

"We know financial constraints are severely affecting local education. Perhaps the Library or Educational Department could instigate a similar access system for educational resources, based at the library?

"The Local Studies section of Keighley Library still needs to be local. It must be preserved and hopefully enhanced.

"The staff are vital, as they have local knowledge and are always willing to retrieve things from the archives."

Mrs Newton said Bradford Council and Keighley Town Council should work together for the best possible outcome for the library.

A Bradford Council spokesman responded: “The formal council budget planning consultation ended on January 27, in advance of a meeting of full council, on February 21 to agree the 2019 to 2021 budget.

"As we develop our proposals for libraries, we'll hold a number of consultations in the summer to inform and shape our plans.

"In the meantime, we're still interested to hear ideas, thoughts and suggestions from members of the public. They can be sent to libraries.consultation@bradford.gov.uk”