AN INVESTIGATION has revealed that 76 library staff have been lost in Cumbria over the past six years.

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The study, conducted by the BBC, revealed that there are now 8,000 fewer jobs in English libraries than six years, a drop of almost 25 per cent of the overall total.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said that a number of full-time library staff had taken up the option of voluntary redundancy, and alongside that there had been a rise in part-time staff seeking or getting increased hours.

He said: "These figures have been down to a combination of things but it's certainly nothing sinister.

"Voluntary redundancy has been an option and some people have taken us up with that. This is along with part-time staff wanting to increase their hours.

"Overall, this is not some slash and burn approach, and we are always looking for ways to maintain and improve our services."

In Cumbria in 2010, there were 296 paid staff in libraries, compared with today's figures of 220.

Meanwhile, the council has 126 volunteers working in library services today, compared to 123 in 2010.

It has also been revealed that over the same period, approximately 15,500 volunteers had been recruited for library staff across England, with around 343 libraries closing across the country.

This number of library closures in England is higher than the government's official estimate of 110 buildings being closed.

The council spokesman added: "We would always encourage more volunteers wherever they can.

"We would not turn volunteers down, particularly in places such as rural areas which can depend on volunteer work for these services."

The Community Services Manager at Barrow Library, Ruth Prosser, says that libraries offer 'endless' opportunities and support to people who use their services.

She said: "I think to the community, it (the library) is very important. Not everybody uses us all the time but sometime in everybody's life we have something to offer.

"I don't think there is anything we don't cover in some way or another. It's not a phrase I like to use, but we are more than just the books."

Meanwhile, talks over the future of Dalton Library building are ongoing.

The county council has insisted the town will not lose its library service, but the cash-strapped authority is looking at how it can be offered in the future, with the potential for it to move to the Dalton Community Association hall opposite in Nelson Street.