COMMUNITY groups wanting to help run their library will have to meet a 14-point list of criteria, it has been revealed.

Essex County Council had wanted to close 25 libraries across the county.

Of the 49 which would have remained, 19 would have been run by community groups.

Following the protests the council made a U-turn and promised no libraries would close for five years. However, it said it would look to set up community-run libraries.

County Hall has now released an information pack for groups looking to help run their library.

It includes a list of 14 “viability criteria” which need to be met for a group to take on the libraries.

The council says by running a library groups can “tailor it to best meet your community’s needs”.

The document said: “We have set some minimum standards for all community-run libraries that we support and we will work closely and in partnership with you to achieve and agree them.

“At this early stage, groups interested in running libraries are not expected have all the answers.

“All that is required is an initial commitment and enthusiasm to working with us to develop a strong proposal for community run library services in your area.

“We are here to support you with every stage of your journey.”

The criteria mean the bid must come from a formally established organisation such as a registered charity or parish council.

The application must also show evidence of community support, how it will comply with relevant laws, minimum opening hours, and be in a venue “suitably located and fit for purpose”.

It must also be financially sustainable.

The document added: “You do not need to meet all/any of these criteria when first making contact, we will help you develop your strongest possible proposal before submission.”

Groups will be given a grant of £18,000 split across three years to help them run.

The council expects communities to own or pay for the premises they use.

But campaigners Save Our Libraries Essex (Sole) criticised the packs. A spokesman said: “These charity shop libraries will not work. Libraries need dedicated library buildings and paid and trained staff. The idea libraries can instead be entirely run and staffed by volunteers, perhaps from inside a pub as suggested by one councillor, is a closure plan by stealth.

“Any group or individual continuing with a takeover will be collaborating in the closure of their local library, and we call on anybody making such a bid to withdraw their takeover.”

Campaigners have also criticised the timing of the pack’s release during the run up to an election.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “The information pack shows that community-run libraries will get lots of support from us, empower communities and be part of a thriving network for years to come.

“Officers have been working on the information pack and the publication of criteria for community-run libraries since the strategy was approved by cabinet in July of this year.

“This has taken time to get right and the packs were always expected to be released before the end of the year.

“We now want to give submitters the chance to read the information pack and decide whether they want to take the next step and develop a proposal.” We expect them to share their ideas locally so residents have a chance to see and comment on proposals before any decisions are made.”