Nearly eight months after voting to shut down six library branches, Aberdeen City Council says it is reconsidering.

But campaigners are wondering whether it is too little, too late.

A controversial decision to close Cornhill, Cults, Ferryhill, Kaimhill, Northfield and Woodside Libraries came at the council’s budget meeting in March.

Since then, a community campaign has urged the council to reconsider.

At the time of the original decision, the city was facing a £47 million deficit.

Cuts to arts and leisure, transportation and education meant that nurseries, pools, gyms and school bus routes were shut down.

Although some services have since been reinstated – either through corporate or Government intervention– most of the cuts look permanent.

READ MORE: Protestors against library closures at Aberdeen council meeting

Now in late autumn, Aberdeen’s libraries appear stuck in Limbo.

Campaigners from the Save Aberdeen Libraries group sought legal consultation from the Govan Law Centre in the spring.

They were told that the closures may have been unlawful because they didn’t consider how closures might impact residents with “protected characteristics”, such as age or disability.

Some eligible residents launched petitions on behalf of multiple branches, raising the potential for a judicial review of the council’s decision-making process.

To reconcile with the public outrage – and perhaps avoid further legal action – the city council announced in September that it would reconsider its decision.

READ MORE: Aberdeen library closure campaigners 'consider legal action'

A public consultation, which began on September 11 and closes on November 6, was also launched. The key feature is a series of focus groups, each featuring up to 10 participants and hosted by library staff.

Three meetings were scheduled for each affected branch: one evening session, one daytime session, and one online session via Teams.

Officers will review information from the consultation and present it at the full council meeting in December, with an aim to make a final decision on whether to reopen some or all of the branches.

But the reality on the ground has changed since March. And campaigners worry that the consultation has come too late for it to be a fair fight.

After the council removed books, DVDs, magazines and newspapers from closed branches, many sites have sat empty for months.

At Cults Library, shelving and furniture have been almost completely removed. Toys and soft seating from Cornhill Library now fill out the children’s section at Central Library.

The Herald: Shelving, books and furniture have all been removed from the inside of Cults Library since its closure in the spring.Shelving, books and furniture have all been removed from the inside of Cults Library since its closure in the spring. (Image: Garrett Stell)

If the council decides in December to reopen any of the branches, it’s unclear how long it will take to restore services.

Added to this, a decision to reopen the branches might not guarantee their futures.

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The council’s finances ahead of the 2024 budget season are nearly as bleak as they were in the spring.

After cutting £46.6 million this year, helped in part by £280,000 saved from closing libraries, Aberdeen faces another deficit of more than £40 million.

According to a report from the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland, 78 per cent of local authorities in the UK are facing a large or very large budget gap.

The report also found that libraries were severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and have shown little sign of recovery.  And more than two-thirds of local authorities facing shortages have identified libraries as a service at risk of cuts.

And with the SNP Government promising to fund a council tax freeze, there are new questions as to whether this funding will be enough to help councils close the gap and if there is enough to go around.