'No hidden agenda for library upgrade'
EAST Sussex County Council has denied there is an ulterior motive behind a £40,000 upgrade to Crowborough library.
It will shut for a week from February 7 while the council modernises the reception and installs self-service machines.
EASY PEASY: Senior library assistant Jill Read demonstrates the self-service scanner at Bexhill Library TWSL20110111E-002_C
The news comes just weeks after councillors put forward their proposals to slash £313,000 from the libraries and culture budget.
Councillor Bob Tidy, lead member for community services, said: "The self-service points have proved very popular at other East Sussex libraries, and they free up library staff to have more time to help people choose books, answer enquiries and use other library facilities and services."
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The works were scheduled following a survey in 2009 about what residents wanted from their library services.
Now Crowborough and Uckfield libraries will be upgraded at a cost of £43,000 and £52,000.
But regular library user, Crowborough historian John Hackworth, said he was suspicious: "Is an automated library service an alternative to library closures?
"Spending this sum now in a virtual crisis year could suggest an ulterior motive – eventual cost-cutting."
But Mr Tidy told the Courier new technology and budget cuts "did not go together".
"We started the modernisation programme to revitalise our libraries long before the budgetary pressures were at the level they are now," he said.
Self-service machines are not there to replace staff, but to help them, he said, but the number of librarians is set to reduce across the county, though "not dramatically".
Works start at Uckfield on January 31 and at Crowborough on February 7. Both will be closed for one week.
During the closures, people can use any other library in East Sussex, use the online library at e-library.eastsussex.gov.uk, or call 0345 6080196 to renew loans or book internet sessions.