ALMOST 15,000 people have joined the fight to stop library closures in Bolton.

Campaigners yesterday handed over petitions to Bolton Council, calling on the local authority to rethink its proposals.

About 30 supporters of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign gathered at Bolton Central Library to hand over the remaining signatures to Cllr Sufrana Bashir-Ismail, executive member for adult services, on the last day of the fourmonth libraries review consultation period.

Nine libraries — Astley Bridge, Breightmet, Bromley Cross, Castle Hill, Harwood, Heaton, High Street, Orchards and Oxford Grove — face closure under the proposals.

The reorganisation is being proposed as part of Bolton Council’s plans to save £60 million over the next two years.

The library service shake-up could potentially save £400,000 to £500,000.

The libraries are being assessed on criteria ranging from how close they are to other libraries, to the condition of the building.

Ian McHugh, the secretary of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, said: “We have just seen about 15,000 people have signed the petitions over the past few weeks, and another 3,000 more who have taken part in the consultation.

“These are people from children through to people in their 80s and 90s and they all value their local library.

“It is somewhere they can go not just to take out books and get on the internet and find out things — it is a gateway for the imagination.

“It is something that is really valued. It is a hub in the local community.

It is one of the few places people come together without paying money, people from different backgrounds and ages.”

He said the group understood the council was in a difficult position but called for Bolton Council to look into a shared services option adopted by other Greater Manchester authorities.

Bernadette Gallagher, Bolton Unison Branch secretary, said: “Our members work hard to ensure that local libraries are welcoming and accessible to all.

They are concerned about the future of their jobs and the service they provide to local communities.

“The fantastic response from the public to this campaign shows how much people value their local library services and want to save them. We urge Bolton Council to think again and keep all branch libraries open.”

The petition follows months of campaigning including rallies and read-ins since the plans were announced in January.

Cllr Bashir-Ismail said: “I thank Save Bolton Libraries for their petition and it will be considered as part of the consultation.”

Campaigner Janet Allison, aged 65, who collected 4,000 signatures in Bromley Cross, has arranged for people to form a ring around Bromley Cross Library, The Crescent, on Thursday at 4pm.