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Agenda item

Library Review

*  Report of the Corporate Director, Community Services is circulated.

Minutes:

Public Participation

 

Questions

 

The Leader reported receipt of questions from Mr Arthur Lomax and Mrs Barbara Lomax who separately sought a reclassification of Tisbury library and sought an assurance that the services of the Librarian would be retained. The questions and responses from Cllr Thomson, Cabinet member for Adult Care, Communities and Libraries were circulated.

 

Statements

 

Mrs Sandra Harry on behalf of Tisbury Parish Council provided a statement as circulated at the meeting and although generally supportive of the initiative expressed concerns over the timescale for implementation. She also explained her Council’s aspirations for and extended and much improved library.

 

Mrs Rachel Hyde made a statement in which she expressed concerns over any measures to reduce library provision at Mere.

 

A statement supplied by Jackie Hopkins was circulated opposing any measures to reduce library provision at Mere.

 

The Leader read out a statement provided by Rev Hazel Barkham opposing any reduction in service at Mere Library.

 

 

Prior to the public participation outlined above, Cllr Thomson presented a comprehensive report on the outcome of the review of library services and sought Cabinet approval of the proposals contained therein. The report proposed a positive vision and strategy for the library service in Wiltshire, following wide ranging consultation, details of which were outlined in the report. It would enable the Council to provide a professional, comprehensive library service, using funding more efficiently, keeping customer satisfaction levels high and reduce operating costs. It also responded to the challenges facing the Council following the reduction in central Government funding and contributed to the broader goals of the Council and Big Society objectives.

 

Cllr Thomson stressed that given the rural setting of the County the mobile library service would be retained and that the proposals did not involve closure of any libraries.

 

To achieve the vision, make the savings required and open up a wide range of opportunities for volunteers and communities to extend provision from a standard set of hours would require the introduction of self service using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for which there would be set up costs as detailed in the report.

 

Investing in RFID technology would enable the Council to provide:

 

·         21 Council operated libraries

·         5 mobile libraries including a special service mobile

·         10 libraries operated in partnership with local communities funded, supported and stocked by the Council

·         Opportunities for volunteers to extend the opening hours available at many local libraries and to make best use of staff to keep libraries open for core/streamlined hours

·         12% budget savings of £505k achievable in 2 years as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review

·         Increased opportunities for financial transactions between the Council and its customers.

 

The library service would work with communities and GROW, the Community Voluntary Service to enhance community support on volunteering projects. Based on current numbers of volunteers, Cllr Thomson was confident that sufficient volunteers would be available to extend opening hours.

 

Cllr Thomson made a couple of amendments to the proposals as presented. In response to consultation responses in respect of Pewsey library and following consultation with the Community Area Manager and the Chairman of Pewsey Area Board, he now proposed to retain 3 hours opening on Saturdays.

 

Cllr Thomson cited Mere library as a shining example of what a library should be in that it also housed other valuable community services including citizens’ advice bureau, tourist information centre, NHS health matters, a carer support group and appointments with the Registrar. In discussions with the customer services team within the council agreement was made for 2 staff to work within the library as an indication of its role as a local hub for the community and as a consequence of this additional staffing time then the library opening hours could be increased since the original proposal.   In recognition of this, he amended his proposal to retain 31 core hours as opposed to the original proposal of 14. Further increased hours could be arranged with the help of volunteers.

 

On a general note, Cllr Thomson explained that where hours were being reduced, the local Area Board could use some of its Area Board funding to increase core hours if it felt that strongly about it and taking into account other community needs. However, the preference would be to provide any additional hours through the use of volunteers. Cllr Thomson agreed to provide guidance on this to Area Board Chairmen.

 

Cllr Jeff Osborn, lead member of the Rapid Scrutiny Task Group on the Library Review presented the report of the Task Group which contained recommendations. It was noted that overall, the Group was supportive of the principles underpinning the vision for the library service. It did mention that earlier engagement with scrutiny would have been more beneficial. It also expressed concern over the implementation timescale for communities to arrange for adequate numbers of sufficiently skilled volunteers to take over level 2 libraries. Cllr Osborn also expressed concern over amendments to proposals being made at this late stage.

 

Cllr Thomson accepted the Task Group’s recommendation which he explained had either already been acted upon or would be. Details of where savings would be achieved and project timeline as requested by the Task Group were presented. Cllr Thomson explained that it was only right and proper that members of the public were able to influence local decision making even at this stage.

 

During debate, Cllr Thomson responded to the points raised by Councillors and their concerns over preserving library services in their respective areas. Cllr Thomson also made a commitment to consider Tisbury Parish Council’s aspirations for Tisbury library at a future meeting of Tisbury Area Board and to involve library users in those discussions. A similar commitment was made to consider aspirations for Ramsbury and Aldbourne library raised by the local division member.

Resolved:

(a)               That Cabinet agree the proposed vision for the service, developed through consultation with users and non-users, including key groups as presented subject to the following changes:

(i)                 Pewsey Library - to retain 3 hours opening on Saturdays.

(ii)               Mere Library – to increase core opening hours to 31 in conjunction with South West Wiltshire Area Board, Mere Town Council and library users.

(a)               That Cabinet approve the bid for capital investment in Radio Frequency Identification (R.F.I.D) technology, subject to the Council’s capital programme setting process through the Capital Assets Committee. The council would then be in a position to provide:

 

·         21 council operated libraries

·         5 mobiles libraries including a special service mobile

·         10 libraries operated in partnership with local communities – providing opportunities for volunteers

·         Opportunities for volunteers to extend the opening hours available at many local libraries, and for the library service to make best use of staff to keep libraries open for core/streamlined hours

 

(c )      That the recommendations of the Rapid Scrutiny Task Group on the Library Review be accepted noting that some of them had already been acted upon.

 

Reasons for Decisions:

 

The decision enables the council to:

 

        i.            Maintain a professional, countywide, library service as defined in the Public Libraries Act 1964, and through the library review work with Wiltshire residents

  1. Involve communities in extending library service opportunities
  2. Improve efficiencies within the service, in order to achieve the required savings level of £505,000 within 2 years. This is part of the overall Comprehensive Spending Review savings requirement of 28.4%. 
  3. Achieve a reduction in staffing costs, without affecting service levels
  4. Place the Library at the heart of the community and as the local face of the Council

 

Supporting documents:

 

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