A LONG-awaited consultation that will shape the future of the district’s shrinking library service has begun.

Cuts of £1.05 million to the library service budget will be implemented in 2020/21, and have proved hugely controversial since being revealed in January.

There have been calls for more details on what the cuts will look like, and further consultation with the public. Library and museums staff have been involved in two strikes, with a third planned for this week.

Now the Council has launched an “engagement exercise” where the public can have their say on the library service before a decision on its future is made in the new year.

A Council boss said the responses will “help steer our plans for our libraries and find smarter ways to use public money”.

Changes may include altered opening hours, using more volunteers, reducing the services available from libraries and relocating facilities.

As part of the process, the Council has also released a “needs assessment” of the library service and a profile of each library - which reveals visitor numbers, borrowing figures and cost to the taxpayer of each visit to the library.

Last year, there were 1,153,857 visits to libraries across the district, with 1,009,251 books and media items borrowed in that time.

Staffing costs at Keighley Library are £169,718 a year, with a further £153,930 for the upstairs Local Studies Library. The annual running costs are £13,799 for the main library, and £9,720 for the Local Studies Library.

The number of visits to Keighley Library has dropped massively in the last four years, from 198,430 in 2015 to 145,582 in 2018. The cost to the taxpayer of each visit is £1.58.

Wilsden Library, which recently became community run, opens just one day a week. The profile says it had 493 visitors last year, with each visit being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £10.11.

Announcing the consultation, the Council said: “Bradford Council has made sure that its library network has remained intact, even when the Council’s budget has been cut significantly.

“But while it recognises the valuable contribution that libraries make to the district’s communities, like many other local authorities across the country it has to balance its ambitions with the need to reduce its budget and deliver savings because of government cuts.”

To take part in the consultation, visit bradford.gov.uk/consultations/current-consultations/libraries-service-engagement before Friday December 20.

There will be drop in sessions at local libraries, including on Saturday November 23 at Keighley Library from 12.30pm to 2pm.