The future of Somerset’s library service will be laid out in the autumn after a public consultation heard from 6,000 people.

Somerset County Council announced in January as many as 15 libraries across the county could close without community involvement.

More than 6,000 responses were received during the extended consultation period, which concluded on Wednesday (June 13).

But a final decision won’t be taken by the council’s cabinet until the middle of October, with any changes being implemented after Christmas.

The council published options for the future shape of its library service in late-January, stating that unless community partnerships could be formed, services in some areas would have to be provide either by additional mobile library stops or community outreach at other venues.

Speaking at the time, cabinet member David Hall said: “These are challenging financial times and we must put libraries on a sustainable financial footing for the long-term, whilst still delivering a modern thriving library service across our county.

“Library services will continue across Somerset whatever the response from this consultation, but our proposals highlight that keeping some libraries open may require community support.

“Where we are unable to keep libraries open, we will deliver library services in other ways such as via alternative venues or mobile library services.”

Under the initial proposals presented at the start of the consultation, the  following places would see their provision reduced to a mobile library stop, unless a community partnership can be formed:

  • Bishops Lydeard
  • Bruton
  • Castle Cary
  • Cheddar
  • Dulverton
  • Milborne Port
  • Nether Stowey
  • North Petherton
  • Somerton
  • South Petherton
  • Watchet
  • Wiveliscombe

In the absence of a community partnership, outreach services could be provided in the following settlements:

  • Crewkerne
  • Highbridge
  • Ilminster
  • Martock
  • Priorswood in Taunton
  • Street
  • Sunningdale in Yeovil
  • Wellington
  • Shepton Mallet library could remain open without community involvement, but may have to change premises.

All other libraries in the county – including those in Bridgwater, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Langport, Taunton  and Yeovil – will not see any changes under the original proposals.

A summary of the consultation responses will come before the council’s policies and places scrutiny committee on July 10, where ward members will be able to give their views in public.

The consultation responses will be analysed in detail over the summer, with the final recommendations for the future of the service being published on September 27.

These will be debated by the same scrutiny committee on October 9, and then the cabinet will make the final decision on October 17 – and decide the level of funding which each library in the county will receive.

A spokeswoman said: “Depending on the decision, community library partnership proposals may be developed and agreed, where expressions of interest have been received from individual communities. We imagine this taking place between November 2018 and January 2019.

“The implementation of the library redesign programme will start in January 2019 and will continue into the 2019/20 financial year. “