LIBRARIES in York are now officially charities, giving fundraising for the organisation a huge boost.

Explore York Libraries and Archives was formally given charitable status by the tax office this year, a move the organisation's boss says will open up a whole world of philanthropy and giving.

The mutual organisation presented its annual report to councillors last week, and chief executive Fiona Williams spoke to members of a learning and culture committee about progress in the last year.

She said: "We are in our third year of independence now.

"It's been a hard slog, but we have received a lot of good news recently as a result of our hard work."

Getting charitable status is crucial to financial plans for the organisation as it can now look into things like Gift Aid and payroll giving to encourage people to support the libraries financially, she said.

A new website has launched, and good news has also come from the Arts Council which has confirmed a £97,000 grant to York Explore over the next three years, to develop it as a "cultural hub" for the city.

Ms Williams also told the councillors of the enormous support the libraries get from volunteers, with 200 people signed up to volunteer at the city centre York Explore alone. There are also eight Friends' groups helping libraries across the city, and Explore hope to have groups backing each of their 16 venues before long.

Statistics show that although the number of people visiting the York libraries has dropped by around 4.4 per cent over two years, that figure is smaller than the national average and the number of people actively borrowing books in York has grown over the same period to around 21 per cent of the city's population.