LIBRARY customers will feel pain through reduced opening hours, chiefs have admitted, but claim widespread closures will be avoided.

More concerns have been raised about a move towards relying on volunteers to help run libraries but bosses say professionals will continue to carry out the specialist jobs.

But saving £1.8 million of the £6.2 million budget is not going to be easy, chiefs have warned.

At a meeting of Worcestershire County Council’s adult care and wellbeing overview and scrutiny panel, Neil Anderson, head of cultural and community services said: “It’s going to be tough to achieve and we have got a long way to go to achieve it.

“The proposals look good on paper but they are hard to achieve.

“We are really positive about it though and we are trying to approach it in a more innovative way than other councils across the country have done.”

Brent Council in London has decided to close six libraries and campaigners are preparing to go to the Court of Appeal after they lost their High Court challenge against cuts.

The case is being watched by other campaign groups around the country who also have libraries threatened with closure as cash-squeezed councils seek to reduce spending.

That should be avoided in Worcestershire despite the county council’s mission to cut up to £70 million from its budget by 2015 as a result of government grant reductions.

However, it does mean libraries could be merged with other services – Droitwich’s recently reopened and shares the space with Wychavon District Council charity AgeUk and Jobcentre Plus – or moved or replaced by a mobile service; be run in partnership with, or wholly by, the local community; be delivered and run by or with other public, voluntary and private sector partners.

The council has warned some jobs will be lost and opening times could be reduced at its 21 main libraries – the council also has about 200 community libraries.

Kathy Kirk, strategic libraries and learning manager, admitted that “will be hard to take” but added: “I think we will escape wholescale closures in Worcestershire.”

Despite that Councillor Richard Udall is not convinced customers will be happy.

“You are going to have a lot of upset library users as a consquence of these changes,” he said and voiced concern about proposals which give increasing reliance on volunteers.

That was echoed by Councillor Penelope Morgan.

“There’s not a bottomless pit of volunteers,” she said. “People need to go out to work.”

Ms Kirk said the council is not looking to replace professionals with volunteers, just use trained staff in a more efficient way.