SELKIRKSHIRE’S three councillors are due to be briefed next week on controversial plans to close the town’s Ettrick Terrace library and move its services to the municipal buildings in High Street – home of the town’s contact centre.
Scottish Borders Council has confirmed that a report on the mergers of its libraries and contact centres in seven towns, including Selkirk, is being prepared.
The Wee Paper understands Selkirk will be last on the list of mergers which will take place firstly in Duns before being rolled out in Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Innerleithen and Coldstream.
At Monday’s meeting of the community council, chairman Gordon Edgar asked the two SBC councillors present – Vicky Davidson and Kenneth Gunn – if they were aware that qualified librarians were already losing their jobs as a result of the cost-saving mergers.
He sought clarification of what was proposed in relation to Selkirk.
Councillor Gunn (SNP), who on SBC’s opposition group, said he was not aware of the latest developments, but Councillor Davidson confirmed a review of the two services was recommending that the library and contact centre would be merged in High Street.
She said she had been assured there would be more, not less, space for library services in the municipal buildings and said councillors were due to be briefed next week on when the switch would occur.
She stressed the review of services had been inevitable after all cash transactions for Council Tax and business rate payments were halted in contact centres.
“The public expects us to save money and would not expect us to have contact centre staff doing nothing when they could be doing front of house work in the library,” she added.
Mr Edgar retorted: “I can understand there has been a reduction in footfall at contact centres and that a merger with libraries will make some sense.
“But this should not be at the expense of qualified librarians’ jobs and the service offered by these professionals, particularly to older users.
“And if contact centres and libraries are to merge then they should do so across the board.
“If these plans are enacted, and I’ve no doubt they are a fait accompli, then patently the level of service offered to the people of Hawick and Galashiels, where facilities won’t be merged, will be of a higher quality than in Selkirk and the other targeted towns.
“It is simply not right to create a two-tier Borders and people getting a diminished service should be entitled to pay less for the provision.”
A spokesperson for SBC claimed the restructuring of libraries would have taken place even without the integration proposals.
“The library proposals recognise and enhance the role of qualified librarians in developing services, but also recommend fewer qualified librarians within the structure than at present,” conceded the spokesperson.
“Two qualified librarians have already left through the voluntary redundancy/severance route and more may yet indicate this as a preference. No member of staff will be made compulsorily redundant.
“The proposals will be presented to the council for consideration at a later date, but if they are approved, Duns will be the first site where integration will happen.”