DEVON'S mobile library service could be shut down.
A consultation is due to launch on its future, with user numbers down and three of the county’s four mobile libraries coming to the 'end of their serviceable lives.'
Cllr Roger Croad (Conservative, Ivybridge) the county council’s cabinet member for communities, says the vans are 'increasingly expensive to maintain' and replacing them would cost between £500,000 and £800,000.
Speaking at a scrutiny committee yesterday, Thursday, he added: 'As the cost of the service continues to rise, the use of the mobile service has fallen significantly.
'Since 2013, the number of loans from the service has fallen by 68 per cent, while the number of visits has fallen by 73 per cent.'
Devon and Torbay’s 54 public libraries are operated by Libraries Unlimited, a charity funded by local authorities and through grants.
Discussing how current mobile library users could still be catered for if the vehicles are axed, Cllr Jerry Brook (Conservative, Chudleigh & Teign Valley) suggested if they could be 'encouraged by a very subsided way to take on e-books and things like that.'
But Cllr Alistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem, Ipplepen & The Kerswells) questioned whether mobile library users have the computer skills to switch to e-books and suggested more local training could be offered.
Cllr Colin Slade (Conservative, Tiverton East) supported the mobile service and wondered if the vehicles could be sponsored. He was told that 'no-one has been willing to pay more than a few hundred pounds,' but it would be explored further.
Green councillor Jacqui Hodgson (Totnes & Dartington) suggested the mobile libraries could be incorporated into community cafes.
Cllr Croad said the service was 'exploring a number of different scenarios' as part of possible changes, which may include an expansion of a home delivery service currently run by volunteers.
Despite an uncertain future for the mobile service, a report to the committee revealed that, across the whole library service in Devon, the number of visitors and active users continue to increase.
In addition, stock issues are now at a higher level than 2019, before the pandemic.