The need to secure budget savings totalling £100m has presented the council with the opportunity to reshape the library service by closing nine branches that account for only 12.5% of library usage in the city.

Five new ‘hubs’ will be created with extended opening hours, supplemented by six part-time community libraries in the same areas. The plan also includes extending the library service to schools and children’s centres, and the introduction of e-books.

The changes will lead to an investment of £500,000 in library upgrades.

The Sunderland Echo quotes Conservative leader Robert Oliver: “The proposals reflect the need to make savings but also acknowledge the fact that the library service in Sunderland has stood still for too long. Unlike other councils, Sunderland has not moved with the times fast enough with outdated computers and a lack of progress on e-books contributing to a decline in usage.”

Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder, said: “We probably wouldn’t have gone down this route had it not been for the fact that we need to change how we do things as budgets continue to be cut and resources become ever more stretched, but we do believe the redesigned service will result in better services reaching more people across a wider range of locations.”