THERE is uproar in the usually refined world of Ludlow readers.

It follows news that as part of a cost-cutting exercise opening hours at Ludlow Library are to be slashed.

An allegation has been made that this will cut demand for library services and so in future be used as an excuse for further cuts.

Phil Poulton, head teacher of Ludlow School, has also spoken about the importance of libraries in education and community life.

The town centre library will be open for seven hours fewer each week – a cut of more than 20 per cent.

But this is causing uproar with claims that the reduction will save just £4,000 from Shropshire Council’s annual libraries budget.

“There are so many pressures on council funding, currently, and alongside leisure services, it is no surprise that the public library services may be under scrutiny across the country,” said Phil Poulton.

“I cannot help thinking that libraries are institutions that are central to what we want our society to represent – learning, enjoyment, curiosity, literacy and community spirit.

"Libraries have been havens for many people who crave a quiet space to read, develop their skills or simply go out as a family for some quality time.

“Modern libraries enable people to have access to millions of articles and books, both in paper form and in electronic format.

“They have also developed their multi-purpose nature, and their no-cost principles have helped people to find out information to improve their lives.

“Libraries give a sense of wellbeing, happiness and are a tremendous return on investment.

Readers in Ludlow have been making their feelings known including a protest at the town library.

Joyce Brand, of the Friends of Ludlow Library, regards the cut in opening hours as potentially the thin end of the wedge and that its importance is not fully understood.

“The loss of seven hours of library time may not seem too drastic in the light of the slash and burn exercise that Shropshire Council has been carrying out and I do think the proposed hours chosen to go are the least damaging,” she said.

“But what is as significant as the books in the library is the staff with all the specialist knowledge and guidance they bring to the task and what I fear is the eventual impact of the council’s stated policy.

“This is to divest itself of all services and therefore all council employees. It would indeed be a loss if we did not have those staff to engage particularly with children.”

Andy Boddington, who represents Ludlow on Shropshire Council, believes that the biggest hit is the loss of Saturday afternoon opening which he claims is a busy time for people visiting the library.

“I am very disappointed that the cuts to opening hours at Ludlow Library have been largely confirmed and that the library will be closed on Saturday afternoons,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who use its facilities then who have been out at work all week.

“Shropshire Council is trying to reduce demand for services by making them unavailable. People won’t be able to borrow books or use other services because the library doors will be closed. That will cut usage numbers further, giving Shropshire Council another excuse to cut library hours in the future.

“We have to bear in mind that the cuts to Ludlow Library hours will save just £4,000 a year.”

Under the new arrangements the Library in Ludlow will lose its late night opening on Fridays, closing at 5pm instead of 7.30pm and will shut its doors at 1pm on Saturdays instead of opening until 5pm.