LIBRARY staff in Melrose were "alarmed" to learn of changes to their service, which includes a reduction in opening hours, it has been claimed.

Provost William Windram made the statement at this month's meeting of Melrose and District Community Council in the Ormiston Institute last week.

It follows proposals by Scottish Borders Council to integrate Library Services with Contact Centres across the Borders in a bid to save money.

Earlier this month, we reported fears had been voiced in Selkirk that the move could lead to some librarians being shelved. Provost Windram said: "This has alarmed the library staff." The meeting heard libraries would have to take on more responsibilities if they are to remain open.

However, Scottish Borders Council Leader David Parker admitted he could not confirm whether a pay point would be included in the new set-up to allow visitors pay their council tax and other bills.

And concerns were raised that there was nowhere suitable in the library for confidential interviews to take place.

Community councillor Val Miller, who pointed out the library in Melrose had recently been refurbished, said: "I think we have got a gem of a library and I worry it would be spoiled." A consultation on the plans, which also affect libraries in Selkirk, Innerleithen, Jedburgh, Kelso, Coldstream and Duns, is currently ongoing and a report would be presented to council on September 29.

John Meehan, Project Manager, said: "Alongside the integration proposals there is an ongoing review of management and operations structure of the Library and Information Service. For Melrose this will mean enabling the current library to provide Contact Centre services as well as Library Services.

"This will be achieved by increasing staff levels in the library and training staff to deliver both library and contact centre services.

"For more complex or confidential enquiries requiring private interviews, the use of alternative rooms within the Ormiston Institute is being investigated. It may be necessary to carry out some interviews on an appointment basis. Where appropriate home visits may be offered. This may be particularly suitable for some of the supported housing complexes.

"It is proposed to make a change to the library opening times. Though the overall number of hours will reduce slightly the library will remain open over lunchtimes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday." And he added: "Contact Centre services will be available whenever the library is open."