SADNESS over a lack of rescue plans for Baildon, Menston and Burley Libraries was expressed repeatedly at a packed public meeting to discuss their futures.

And there were fears that those who dodge the axe might then be starved to death by never getting any new books.

Some 100 worried supporters of local literacy gathered in Ian Clough Hall, Baildon, tonight to hear Bradford Council's executive member for libraries and education Susan Hinchcliffe present two stark options - closure for 17 district libraries, or their transfer into the hands of volunteer groups.

The seven largest libraries are so far safe, with no plans to reduce their long opening hours.

City Hall is currently consulting prior to Full Council on Thursday, February 25, when it will decide on the plan aimed at saving some £290,000 a year, 70 per cent of which would be staff wages.

But there has so far been no specific consultation with any  voluntary groups linked to the threatened 17 to determine if Community Managed Libraries would even be viable in this instance.

It was said this will only take place after the Council has made its decision on the over-all plan.

Baildon town Councillor Gill Dixon, speaking independently, attacked an apparent lack of pre-planning, particularly relating to the four largest of the 17 - Baildon, Wyke, Wibsey and Laisterdyke.

"I would've expected to see at least two other options, at least to try and find a hybrid solution with a backbone of paid staff and volunteers. I could see that working.

"I cannot imagine getting a volunteer run library to be open 45 hours a week as ours is in Baildon.

"There must be other ways of making savings, getting rid of free newspapers, charging for book requests, as Leeds does, and many other options.

"I'm disappointed not to see a more creative approach from the Council," she said.

Other suggestions from the floor were for charges to be made for computer use and Baildon ward Councillor Val Townend suggested teaming up with other authorities to secure better discounts on new books.

The consultation proposal being circulated only says CMLs will be part of the library book pool and it was claimed a senior library service officer had said they would not be provided with any new stock.

Cllr Hinchcliffe acknowledged there was some uncertainty on this issue.

Cllr Townend also said the ratio of 19 full-time team leaders in a library service which only has 117 employees seemed top heavy and expensive.

While librarians were universally praised, it was was also said that the service managers had historically failed to be pro-active when it came to fund-raising and making economies, thus fuelling the present crisis.

Cllr Hinchliffe assured parents that full security checks would be carried out on any volunteers and that there would be no data protection issues.

Other matters were whether serious structural problems would be funded in years to come.

Ward Councillor Debbie Davies summed up the mood: "How did it come to this?

"To me it seems there will be disproportionate impact on the elderly, young families, the unemployed and those on benefits."

Cllr Hinchcliffe regretted the need to pass on Government cuts in funding and conceded that as the library-using population is ageing, "you could say it is affecting older people.

"But libraries are also a community facility and therefore in theory, changes to them affect everybody," she said.

The meeting heard any representations or opinions must be submitted to Bradford Council swiftly to allow them to be processed before Full Council meets in just over three weeks time.