PLANS to close 20 Dorset libraries “are not set in stone”.

That was the message to Dorset County Council’s cabinet on Wednesday from a senior councillor tasked with delivering about £800,000 of savings from the library service.

Community Services chief, Cllr Hilary Cox, pledged further meetings with friends groups and a policy development panel of councillors before a finalised “offer” was put out for public consultation.

“It is a consultation on the offer.

“Nothing is set in stone. There are ways we think this offer can be improved but we need to hear from the community.

“We know it’s not perfect. How could it possibly be at the first attempt?

“Each community is different and has different needs,” she said.

Dorset Library Service runs 34 libraries. Proposals to withdraw funding from 20 of them by April 2012 have drawn a petition of more than 13,000 signatures, cabinet members heard.

Libraries in Colehill, Corfe Castle, Corfe Mullen, Lytchett Matravers, Sturminster Newton, Stalbridge, and Wool are among those facing closure.

Cllr Cox said the council planned to expand its mobile library service, and its online book borrowing facilities, from which readers can download so-called ebooks from the council’s web site.

Speaking after the meeting, Tim Lee, acting chairman of library friends group, Ad Lib, said few residents owned the hardware to read ebooks.

And he claimed that the council’s website did not offer ebooks in a format compatible with the popular Kindle device.

He said Mrs Cox had “got things the wrong way around”.

“We are starting off with a totally flawed document, which doesn’t give us a lot of hope. What we don’t know is what extra ways savings could be made from the library budget.

“These won’t necessarily be discussed with individual libraries during the consultation. That’s the real problem, and that’s what we will be saying to the full council on February 17,” he said.