LIBRARY users are “worried” over plans to let private investors take a stake in five sites across Enfield.

Interest from external parties to lease the buildings or share the facilities has been encouraged by Enfield Council, who say they are encouraging partners from within the local community.

The libraries in question are Enfield Island Village Library, Bullsmoor Library, Oakwood Library, Winchmore Hill Library, and Fore Street Library.

So far only the lease details of Enfield Island Village have been released, and while it is said that the use would be as a public library it also states that “subject to landlord’s consent, other uses will be considered”.

The details state that betting office and takeaway uses are prohibited.

Warren Sherman, 46, who has used Enfield’s libraries all his life, said he was concerned that the plans were the beginning of the end for the services in their current state.

He said: “It is worrying that they are chipping away at the space – every time I go into my local library, I seem to see fewer and fewer books.

“The staff are great, but many of them are now volunteers, and the whole system just seems to be in the middle of a cost-cutting exercise.

“The whole thing has been kept very quiet, I didn’t know anything about it for a long time and I have used the libraries for over 40 years – the facilities are being run down, and people are not aware of it.”

Mr Sherman also said he was concerned by the reduced opening hours at his local library on Ridge Avenue.

As of February 29, the library has been closed on Saturday mornings and shuts an hour and a half earlier on evenings, making it difficult to use the services for those in a full time job.

It is also now one of 10 Enfield libraries to be run by volunteers, rather than full time staff.

Terry Neville, leader of the opposition in Enfield Council, said the future of the borough’s libraries was a cause for concern.

He said: “While we support the effective use of space in our buildings, as far as we are concerned it must not be at the expense of good service.

“Only space in libraries that is genuinely surplus to requirements should be let out.”

Cllr Ayfer Orhan, cabinet member for education, children’s services and libraries, said that offering the chance to share library facilities would have great community as well as financial benefits.

She said: “We plan to work with potential partners who are already working in our communities.

“Sharing library buildings brings a mutual benefit to the local community - schools, children’s centres, colleges, and the voluntary sector are among the organisations who have expressed an interest.

“Our agents are still preparing their report so we do not have the details on the expressions of interest yet.

“The four largest and most popular libraries will remain as they are except Edmonton Green which is due for a major refurbishment.

“As the new arrangements are introduced in our smaller libraries’ opening hours may change to reflect their use among local communities, and we shall endeavour to retain weekend and some evening opening.

“Currently all 17 Enfield libraries remain open.

“Both Enfield Island Village and Bullsmoor Library were offered to the voluntary sector first and we are still keen on attracting organisations to come forward. The remaining libraries are all high street locations and therefore may be attractive to commercial partners.

“Key criteria in choosing a partner are a mix of uses including community value and retaining universal access to the library service.”