City bosses say libraries are set for 'new lease of life' with hand over to communities

The library inside the Bunny Hill Centre is among those expected to be taken on by a community group.

The library inside the Bunny Hill Centre is among those expected to be taken on by a community group.

Eight libraries are to become community venues when they are passed on by the council to be run by groups.

Negotiations with community teams interested in taking over the running of the library buildings are now in their final stages, with the new arrangements due to be announced over the next few weeks.

Current provision at Bunnyhill, Fulwell, Ryhope, Sandhill, Kayll Road, Hetton and Washington Millennium Centre comes to an end tomorrow pending the buildings' reopening as community venues.

Sunderland City Council has said provision at Shiney Row will continue until mid-June.

Free access to computers at other local sites will continue to be available during the changeover.

Sunderland City Library, Washington Town Centre Library and Houghton Library continue to operate a full library service.

People can also access a wide range of digital library services, including access to e-books, e-audio books and e-magazines at: www.sunderland.gov.uk/digital-library.

The council says each library has professional staff on hand to help customers get online and help them choose their books.

This year's Summer Reading Scheme and the Sunderland Literature Festival and going ahead as normal, while Local Studies continues to operate from Fawcett Street, offering a family history search and local history archive for the city.

Plans to retain a city centre library and town centre libraries in Houghton and Washington and open talks with the voluntary, community, public and private sectors with a view to them operating the remaining library buildings were endorsed by the council's cabinet in February.

The plans were put forward following a consultation on reshaping library services in line with the council's reduced budget.

Executive director for people services, Fiona Brown, said: "We're delighted with the positive response we've had from community organisations interested in running these buildings with a community library offer.

"They've come forward with some really interesting ideas which will not only give the buildings a new lease of life but make sure they continue to be an asset to the local community."

The changes reflect a fall in the number of people visiting libraries in the city which have halved in the last four years.

At the same time the number of people accessing services digitally is continuing to rise.

This reflects the situation nationally with fewer people using traditional library services.

In response to this changing trend, the council is continuing to develop its digital library services including access to the online catalogue, membership and renewals, e-books, e-audio books, e-magazines and a library app.

It is also continuing to provide the books at home service which takes books to people in their own homes if they have mobility problems or other health issues that prevent them visiting a library.

Ms Brown added: "Nationally and locally people aren't using traditional library services the way they once did and we need to continue evolving our own library service to reflect this.

"More people are now accessing digital resources including e-books on their phones and computers.

"The approach we're taking reflects the change in the way people use libraries and the fall in demand at the same time as helping achieving the savings we need to make by 2020."