COMMUNITY volunteers would help operate most public libraries in a cost saving plan unveiled by a council which is already under fire for suggesting pupils could assist with its schools service.

East Renfrewshire Council is thought to be the first in Scotland to unveil the scheme as part of plans to bridge a budget shortfall of £20 million over the next three years.

Yesterday, it emerged the local authority has floated plans for senior year pupils to help the running of libraries in its secondary schools, which are the best performing schools in Scotland.

Officials are now considering bringing in volunteers in place of professional staff in its public libraries in bid to save £325,000.

The redesign of its library service from 2016/17 will affect six of their 10 libraries in Busby, Eaglesham, Neilston, Thornliebank, Netherlee and Uplawmoor.

The council has also indicated that it will be looking at moving the affected libraries in with other facilities with the prospect of "identifying local commercial or community management opportunities".

The council says that the move if passed would involve the loss of eight to nine full-time posts.

It said this could be achieved by not replacing staff who leave and through voluntary redundancy.

The proposals have been criticised by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland, the sector representative body, who believe the move to use voluntary staff to operate libraries would be a first in Scotland and could set a precedent for other libraries as Scots councils come under pressure to cut costs.

"We do not support the proposal by East Renfrewshire Council that some libraries could use community volunteers to operate their services," said a CILPS spokesman. We hold that a good public library service is essential to the well being of communities, providing a positive experience for local people and demonstrating the value a local authority places on its community.

"CILIPS believes that society benefits from the contribution trained and skilled library workers make to developing and delivering services. We do not believe volunteers should undertake core service delivery or be asked to replace the specialised roles of staff who work in libraries."

An East Renfrewshire Council spokeswoman said: "We believe we can maintain a fully supported library and information service in all areas that suits those communities' needs.

"No decision has been taken as yet and we would encourage local residents, communities and staff to make their views known over the next few weeks."