Libraries across Derry look set to face shortened hours, lose agency workers, with permanent staff being redirected to plug gaps, the Journal has learned.
The shock move comes after the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure confirmed it has asked Libraries NI and other bodies to make cuts.
Libraries NI have now confirmed to the Journal that “immediate steps must be taken” to achieve the £1.4m savings required by March next year, with all five libraries in Derry to be affected.
The series of measures- which looks likely to include shutting down libraries over the Christmas holiday fortnight- is expected to spark widespread anger.
The 38 staff currently employed at the five libraries in Derry- Central, Creggan, Waterside, Strathfoyle and Shantallow- will have their jobs protected for now, but four agency workers look set to go.
A spokeswoman for Libraries NI said: “In libraries across Northern Ireland, vacancies may not be filled and agency cover will be reviewed for possible release. This is a regrettable course of action as agency staff have provided a valuable service.”
Enagh Youth Forum’s youth support worker Eamonn O’Donnell vowed that they would fight to save Strathfoyle Library.
Mr O’Donnell said: “We campaigned, fought and saved the library back in 2011 and since then the usage has grown. It is a real heart of the community.
“This will effectively leave one staff member here. How many times are we going to have to come to the rescue of our own deprived services in this community? Hundreds of young people use this library.”
Fellow youth worker Paul Hughes added: “We spent all year fighting the incinerator. Now we can’t even get lampposts fixed, and now we have this community resource under threat.”
Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín meanwhile said Libraries Ni was just one of a number of bodies asked to make the cuts.
“We have to be realistic – projects and schemes across the DCAL family will be affected” she said.