THE deputy leader of Monmouthshire council attempted to assure over 70 people that Usk library will not close or have its hours reduced.

Councillor Bob Greenland was speaking at Usk Memorial Hall on Thursday night to discuss the future of the library.

Closing Usk and Gilwern libraries is one of 37 ideas the council believes could go towards bridging next year’s financial gap, a move which could save £180,000.

The Save Usk Library Action Group argues that the library is the only publicly-funded service in Usk and the most visited in the county, despite opening the least hours. For many, it is their only access to broadband, the only place where local schoolchildren can get books and is the only hub for the community which is free and accessible.

Cllr Greenland, who was among the representatives of the council to share the stage with the action group, said: “This is a very important service as far as I am concerned. I am not here to close this library or to reduce the hours but to look at using a different model.

“What we are proposing is that we talk to the community about trying to find a way that the library can go on and into the future by taking it out of the clutches of the council so it can be a community asset. The councilWe will not walk away from it but continue to put money into the librarian.”

Action group member, Alison Ivin said the demountable building has around £6,000 in costs and the site is not owned by the council so the savings can only come from cutting the £54,000 staff costs. Julie McGowan, action group leader, suggested reducing the hours across all libraries in the county by closing them for a day each week, including Usk, would save around £174,000 a year which is nearly the £180,000 identified in the budget.

She said if it were to become a community library run by volunteers, the town’s ageing population could not sustain.

Peter McGowan said the town is isolated and that if the library closed, people will have to travel ten or 12 miles to the nearest one.

One woman made said for many the library provides their only internet access because of poor broadband, whilst another said he would be prepared to have street lights dimmed at night or refuse collected less often if it means saving the library.

The floor applauded a man who said: “Usk only has a library. We have nothing else for you to cut.”

County Councillor Val Smith called on the council to be open with the public and to put the options in the library for people to see, to which Cllr Greenland agreed.

Alternative buildings such as the Sessions House and Community Centre have been suggested but the former is full.

One woman said Usk Prison has a very good library and suggested people could join it if the library closes.