A GROUP dedicated to saving three Richmondshire libraries has said unless it is supported by the community, they risk losing the services for good.

The Catterick, Richmond and Colburn Community Libraries (CRACCL) was set up earlier this year and is the first group to attempt to take over the running of three libraries – but it needs more than 100 volunteers in order to make it a success.

Philip Wicks, chairman of CRACCL, said although there are already nine other community-run libraries within North Yorkshire, CRACCL is the first to attempt to run three with the same group of volunteers from April 1.

North Yorkshire County Council has to make savings of £1.4m from the library budget – and 21 libraries across the county must become community run if they are to survive.

Mr Wicks said: “We already have around 45 volunteers to help us run the three libraries, and we have applied for charitable status.

“But that is not enough – we need at least 100 volunteers to be sure we can make a success of it, and actually help the libraries flourish.”

Mr Wicks said he became involved with saving Richmond library after attending a council workshop in November 2015, but the idea to save all three came about in February this year when he met other local volunteers passionate about the services.

“We took a vote on whether we should form three groups, or work as one group. The overwhelming majority voted to work as one group,” he said.

“Each library has its own focus – Colburn is especially popular with children as it is in the same building as the children’s centre, so is geared up towards that audience.

“Catterick Garrison library is big on adult learning, not just because of the military personnel but their families too; and the Richmond library has the Tourist Information Centre, which we believe is vitally important to the town.”

Mr Wicks said CRACCL is currently advertising for a paid position to oversee the training and organising of the new volunteers, and will hold a volunteer recruitment drive in January before taking over the running of the libraries in April.

“We needed someone to help us over the initial hump of training and organising all the volunteers, so we have managed to raise £10,000 from the local town and parish councils to help us pay for that person.

“That role will last six months, then we will take over the ongoing training of new volunteers as people come and go.

“We know it will be a lot of work but it is an exciting time. We can mould the libraries in our own way, there will be no constraints over opening hours – eventually we would love to increase opening hours and see the centres become real community hubs.”

He added: “Libraries are more than just about borrowing books – they are places to learn, use the internet, get help for all manner of things. But without the support of the community we will not succeed.”