A LIBRARY user has criticised proposals to introduce paid membership to Bexley Village Library, claiming it will create "a two-tier system".
Bexley Council has agreed the library will be managed by charity, Greener Bexley, through a community group called Bexley Village Community Library (BVCL).
BVCL will take over the library in spring, saving the council around £40,000 a year.
It will continue to offer free membership of the library but people will also be able to pay for memberships that provide extra benefits, at annual rates of £24 or £75.
All customers will pay to use the desktop IT facilities but wi-fi access will be free.
BVCL will not loan CDs or DVDs, but instead it will sell them while encouraging their return after use so they can be re-sold.
David Hinds, of Hill Crescent, Bexley, is a regular user of the library.
The retired grandfather-of-three said: "The bare bones of the agreement seem to be not quite what I was anticipating at all.
"I think it's all fairly appalling. I feel it's introducing a two-tier system."
The 75-year-old added: "£24 a year is not an unreasonable sum but you don't expect to pay for library services.
"It's a very affluent area and we pay our council tax. I think we deserve these services.
"I don't see why we should have to pay for them or be stigmatised if we don't pay for them."
BVCL will run the library independently of the council’s library network.
Leader of the council, Councillor Teresa O’Neill, said: “We will be working closely with BVCL to ensure residents receive the same high quality service.
“We will continue to supply some book stock to the library on an annual basis ensuring residents will have access to a broad range of material to suit all tastes.
"We will also be seconding a part-time member of staff to work with BVCL at the library combining the council’s experience of running libraries with BVCL’s exciting new approach to providing a library in Bexley Village.”
Jonathan Rooks, chairman of Greener Bexley, which supports conservation and environmental improvements in the area, said: "Our initial plans will see us opening for an extra nine hours a week and having a cafe within the library.
"We also hope to work with the community to put on events and keep the library at the centre of village life."
Different levels of membership
BVCL is planning to introduce three levels of membership to the library.
- Reader’s Ticket - Free membership and free loans of stock, with some limits to the numbers of items which can be borrowed. Due dates and fines will apply.
- Library Member - A £24 annual fee will see people join as full members of the wider charity. Benefits will include being able to borrow a higher number of books, keeping books for an unlimited time, a free period of use on the public computers, discounts in the cafe and priority booking for events.
- Gold Membership - Customers can join as a ‘patron’ for a £75 annual subscription. Members would be making a donation to the running costs of the library and attracting additional funds to the charity through Gift Aid. BVCL will reinvest income earned through membership in new library stock.