Trafford Council in Greater Manchester is planning to remove all paid library services staff from two local libraries and bring in volunteers in their place.
Under proposals from the local authority, which are out for consultation, 12 staff at Old Trafford Library and Hale Library will be transferred to other libraries in the area to fill posts that have been created by a five-month process of not replacing staff that have left.
All library services at the two libraries will then be run by volunteers. One paid member of staff will remain at each library to run a separate project that offers advice to local residents on council services including benefits claims, council tax and pothole reporting. However, the paid staff will not work on library services.
A spokesman for the council said the proposals were aimed at saving £301,000 a year. He said there were no volunteers at either of the libraries at present and it was not clear how many would be brought in, but that a "minimum pool" of about 20 would be needed.
The council has signed the Trafford Compact, which says: "Volunteers should not be recruited to fill the place of paid staff. This could be seen as exploitation of the volunteer and a deprival of someone’s livelihood."
The spokesman said he did not believe the proposals would contravene the Compact. "The staff at the libraries are being redeployed so we are not making any redundancies," he said.
"And the role we are asking volunteers to take on is not the same role that is already there."
He said this was because the paid staff had all worked on the local advice project that exists alongside library services including book lending, tidying shelves and helping people to find books, but that the volunteers would work only on the library services and not the advice project. He said none of the paid staff were qualified librarians because specialist services were carried out at a larger library in the area.
Asked whether he thought the proposals ran contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of the Compact, the spokesman said: "It is open to that interpretation, yes. But the Compact was agreed before the scale of spending cuts hit home."