Libraries will continue to be staffed despite the introduction of self- service machines into all 31 of Wiltshire’s libraries, council chief John Thomson has said.

The introduction of the machines and recruitment of volunteers to man the county’s ten smallest libraries will result in Wiltshire Council saving £300,000 a year.

As a result the number of full-time posts in the library service will be reduced by 13 and the council said these will all be voluntary redundancies.

In January the council’s Cabinet agreed to reduce opening hours at most libraries to save money and urged people to become volunteers to ensure ten small libraries, including Aldbourne, Ramsbury, Market Lavington, Lyneham and Box, would not close.

Coun John Thomson, deputy leader of Wiltshire Council, said more than 400 people had applied to become volunteers which would ensure the ten small libraries would continue.

In Aldbourne villagers voted for a rise in their council tax bill to pay for the librarian to continue working there, but the remaining nine small libraries will rely on volunteers backed up five hours a week by a librarian.

The council is spending more than £500,000 on installing self-service machines. Some of the bigger libraries, such as Devizes, Trowbridge, Chippenham and Warminster have had the machines for a few years.

People use the them to borrow, return, renew and reserve books and also to pay charges.

Coun Thomson said: “A highly-qualified librarian is wasted stamping a book and putting a card through a machine. They are much better assisting on the library floor. The machines in the libraries are like the automated tills at supermarkets but still have staff working there.

“Any organisation doesn’t like making people redundant because it has a huge impact on their lives. We are having to face the economic realities of having a 28 per cent cut in funding. Compared to other authorities we are not losing many staff.

“I was very impressed and surprised by the amount of volunteers who have come forward. I think it’s a tremendous commitment to the people of Wiltshire.”

The machines are due to be installed by September.

Sue Anderson, secretary of Wiltshire Unison, said: “There have been a number of redundancies in the library service which is a concern to us. Volunteers can’t replace the knowledge and experience of librarians.”