RECOMMENDATIONS for the future of Somerset’s libraries service have been unveiled today (Tuesday), with a final decision expected to be made on November 5.

A detailed report sets out how libraries would continue to be delivered across the county.

It recommends that 19 existing library buildings be retained by cash-strapped Somerset County Council.

For the remaining 15 library buildings, the authority would seek to develop community library partnerships (CLPs), where local groups would support the buildings in partnership with County Hall.

Where this proves not to be possible, library buildings would close and alternative means of delivering library services in communities such as outreach services and/or mobile library stops would be implemented.

The 19 libraries where services are recommended to remain the same are: Bridgwater town centre, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Cheddar, Crewkerne, Dulverton, Frome, Glastonbury, Ilminster, Langport, Martock, Minehead, Shepton Mallet (likely to move to a new location, which would be determined next year), Taunton town centre, Wellington, Wells, Williton, Wincanton and Yeovil town centre.

CLPs expressions of interest will now be invited from the following 15 communities: Bishops Lydeard, Bruton, Castle Cary, Highbridge, Milborne Port, Nether Stowey, North Petherton, Porlock (with the aim to continue its existing CLP in its present format), Priorswood (Taunton), Somerton, Street, South Petherton, Sunningdale (Yeovil), Watchet and Wiveliscombe.

Cllr David Hall, cabinet member with responsibility for libraries at Somerset County Council, said: "We received excellent feedback from this year’s library services consultation and thank you to everyone who took part.

"It reinforced what we already knew; strong, thriving, modernised library services are as important to you as they are to us.

"Many people told us they would prefer no changes to our libraries service, however staying the same is not an option if we are to put the libraries service on a sustainable footing for the future.

"We have listened, and the recommendations have taken account of the feedback.

"We are making funds available to support CLPs and we are proposing to restructure libraries management in a bid to keep costs down.

"We’re now recommending changes to fewer libraries than set out in the original consultation proposals. We are also following up suggestions made by communities.

"This is a once in a generation review. The network of library buildings in Somerset has remained unchanged for around 40 years.

"We have to modernise library services and re-design them to meet local needs more effectively.

"We need to strike the right balance of delivering a thriving, dynamic and comprehensive library service, which meets our statutory obligations, whilst living within our financial means."

The 15 communities which would be affected by the recommendations are now invited to submit a CLP expression of interest by midday on Thursday, November 15.

If unable to agree CLPs, alternative library services as set out in the report would be implemented, such as outreach services and mobile van library stops, and library buildings could start to close from early 2019.

Cllr Hall added: "We are heartened by the number of communities interested in exploring CLPs.

"This model has worked well in Porlock for the last four years and in many other libraries across the country.

"We are committed to supporting CLPs through training, ongoing technical support, the provision of book stock, including a regular supply of new books, and ICT equipment such as computers, printers and scanners.

"Some would receive ongoing financial support. If we are unable to develop CLPs, we will meet our legal duty to provide library services in other ways."

The recommendation report will go to scrutiny committee for policy and place on Wednesday, October 24, before cabinet makes a final decision on November 5.

If approved, implementation would start from January 2019.