RESIDENTS who fear losing library services as part of county council belt-tightening are being asked to be a part of their future.

North Yorkshire County Council is looking to save 2.3m out of its library budget of 7.5m, including 1.1m in the next 12 months.

The council runs 42 libraries and several mobile ones, but the need for savings has placed 13 at risk of closure.

Among those on the threatened list are Great Ayton, Leyburn and Bedale. Residents recently addressed a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council, at which officers stressed they did not want to see the libraries close.

Instead they called for greater community involvement and the possibility that locals could take over the running of the services.

Julie Blaisdale, assistant director of library and community services, said: "We are in a 90-day consultation period and we're not definitely going to go ahead and shut the libraries.

"We want to talk to communities. We would like to see community libraries thriving and working well.

"We understand people's fears that once the libraries have shut they will be gone forever, but we want to maintain a library service in communities if possible.

"If we can keep the same level of professional service then we could look at a community-based solution."

Irene MacDonald, of Great Ayton, was one of several residents who spoke at the meeting.

She said: "We feel very strongly about the library service and more than a third of Great Ayton residents use it.

"It's not just about books as it's a social venue too. We understand the necessity to make savings and we're willing to help the council with this, but we're not willing to lose the library."

Fellow villager, Jennifer Roberts, asked why some of the libraries were escaping closure and inquired as to whether a reduction of services across the board would not be a better idea.

She said: "Keep all of the libraries open and split their hours. I urge the council to rethink its strategy.

"This may only be a temporary economic downturn and so why try to solve it with a permanent closure?"

The council's consultation ends on February 28 and no decisions will be made before then.