Libraries in Hampshire are well-known and loved by all. Having more than 40 different physical libraries, the county's local library service is considered to be one of the biggest in the country.

However, with the unstable economy the UK has faced these past few years, Hampshire County Council is being forced to budget around £132m by 2025 to keep providing the critical services it offers. 

This means that there will be some changes headed for 13 different areas - one of these being reducing the physical and digital stock Hampshire libraries on offer. From March 31, 2024, the council is planning to reduce physical stock by 22 per cent and digital stock by 67 per cent.

Freddie, who has volunteered at The Arc in Winchester since 2021, was not pleased - but said he empathises with the council and the financial pressure it is tasked with reducing.

He said: “I think it has to happen, but it's just awful that it does have to happen.” 

As the decrease in physical stock will mainly be targeted at replacing hardback covers with paperback covers, the rapid decrease in digital stock might be something to worry about. Since the pandemic, the rate of digital library usage has more than doubled according to the council. Furthermore, in another survey completed by YouGov, 57 per cent of adults stated that the digital library was an adequate replacement for physical libraries - even though after the pandemic it was found that only a fifth of library users used the digital library. 

One of the alternatives considered by the council was charging a fee for the digital library offer, while another was closing libraries/reducing opening hours.

Freddie said: “It is important to take all alternatives into consideration but I do feel like opening hours would cause more damage."

But even though he firmly disagrees with reducing opening hours, Freddie does not object to charging a fee for the digital library offer.

“A small charge for the digital library might be okay, better than reducing opening hours dramatically… it's all about reducing a small amount and making small changes in several areas rather than impacting a massive area such as the digital and physical stock,” he said. 

Though the council encourages discussion surrounding the future of local services such as the library, it is evident that there is not much we can do regarding the impending budget cuts.

But despite the unfortunate financial issues, the fact that we are still provided with an undeniably excellent library service in Hampshire is quite special - and something that we can be grateful for.

“I've had the library for all my life, it’s served my family and we’ve used it for all sorts of stuff,” Freddie said.

“They provide such a haven for entertainment and education and art... It's just a really nice space that's really crucial to the community.” 

  • This article was written by Saba Ghandi, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter scheme.