Public consultation is underway on proposals which, come the autumn, would see Dromore’s town library open for an additional three hours a week following a review of library opening hours provincewide.
Under temporary measures introduced in November last year as a result of the in-year budget savings required of Libraries NI (and due to remain in place until proposed changes can be implemented) Dromore library retained the 25-hour week under which it had operated as of April 2014.
It is now proposed the library open for 28 hours a week.
Proposals for neighbouring Banbridge would see a marginal increase, to 45 hours, on the temporary 44.5-hour week currently in place, a net reduction of three hours on the 48-hour week in place last April, while Rathfriland library would retain the 25-hour week which has been in place throughout.
Announcing the consultation, the Board of Libraries NI said that as a result of the savings required by the Draft Budget for 2015/16 it had reluctantly agreed to review library opening hours across Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson said: “The Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure has provided a measure of protection to the library sector in the Draft Budget 2015/16 which means there will be no library closures, but opening hours in a number of libraries may be reduced or will operate with a different pattern.
“A public consultation on the proposed revised opening hours will take place from February 18 to April 17.
“The Consultation Report suggests that public libraries across Northern Ireland continue to be categorised into bands based on level of use.”
The proposal is that libraries in Band One would open for 54 hours a week; Band Two, 50 hours; Band Three, 45 hours; Band Four, 40 hours; Band Five, 35 hours; Band Six, 28 hours; Band Seven, 25 hours and Band Eight, 18 hours.
Public consultation survey questionnaires will be available in libraries and on the Libraries NI website – www.librariesni.org.uk.
A draft equality impact assessment and draft rural impact assessment will be available on the website for comment, along with the proposal document.
Once the Board has taken its decision on the way forward there will be a further period of local engagement with customers in every library regarding the actual pattern of opening hours.