YORK could be one of the only places in the country to open new libraries, according to the boss of a new body running the city's libraries.

City of York Council has now transferred the library and archive services to Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd - a staff-led Industrial and Provident Society for the benefit of the community.

Fiona Williams, chief executive of Explore, said libraries could be opened in new developments in York.

She said: “We are very excited about the future of libraries and archives in York. We will continue to work in close partnership with the council, while we not only maintain the services and facilities currently available in the city, but also improve and expand them. Indeed, we are one of the few places in the country looking at the possible opening of new libraries within new developments across the city. "

The transfer of all 14 libraries, two reading cafes and the mobile library was officially completed yesterday when cabinet member Cllr Sonja Crisp symbolically handed over responsibility to Explore in a ceremony at Rowntree Park Reading Café.

Library staff have moved over from the council to the staff-led Industrial and Provident Society which is one third owned by its staff and two thirds by members.

Both members and staff will be involved with the running and development of the libraries, and although most of Explore's funding will come from the council, as a charity it will be able to apply to other sources of cash.

The chief executive added: "We chose this model because we want to work with our local communities, shaping the future, and I’m especially excited by the fact that our staff will be involved in the development of the service as well as its delivery, and I know they are passionate about making a success of it.

"We will also enjoy more freedom to make our own decisions about our own future, secure in the knowledge that we have funding for at least the next five years."

Explore has said it is committed to keeping all the city's libraries open, with paid staff in each, and the plan has been praised by government ministers.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "I congratulate City of York Council on their work to bring about this significant shift in the delivery of services and to put them in the heart of the communities that rely on them, and I hope others will follow their lead and reap the benefits."