HEARTBROKEN campaigners who lost their fight to save nine rural libraries say the future of the service in their villages is now unclear.

After months of debates and protests on the future of Dorset’s libraries, the final decision whether to continue funding the service in Colehill, Corfe Castle, Wool and six other Dorset villages came down to the final vote at a meeting of Dorset County Council on Thursday.

The Association for Dorset Libraries (Ad lib) has revealed it may now seek a judicial view, although there are no signs supporters of the axed libraries will follow in the footsteps of campaigners in Brent, London, who have launched the first High Court challenge against library closures.

Campaigners for the libraries say they need to let the decision sink in before deciding what course of action to take, amid fears there may not be enough support to take up the county council’s offer to back community-run services instead.

Dorset County Councillor Janet Dover, who was heavily involved in the fight for Colehill Library, said: “We’re all very upset and quite devastated. Funding for the community-run service stops in April so we will be working together to see if there is anyway forward to keep it open.

“It’s just so tragic. Two months ago the staff at the library won an award for customer service and we have a high lending rate.”

At the packed meeting in county hall, councillors were asked to vote on two proposals for the future of Dorset’s library service in a bid to save £800,000.

The decision was in the balance until council chairman John Wilson cast the last vote to see Option B win by 21 votes to 21, which means the county council will no longer fund the three libraries.

Leader of the county council Cllr Angus Campbell, said: “We must ensure that the library service is sustainable in the future and I believe retaining all 34 libraries would have seriously damaged that approach, bleeding the service dry for a short-term fix.

“Local government funding has undergone a seismic shift and we must adapt to that.”