This item will be presented by Kate Murray (Head of Libraries)
Officers introduced this report. Councillors were advised that, following the recent Council decision to reduce the budget envelope for this service to £3.2 Million, the Council needed to decide how the service can be delivered within a smaller envelope. Councillors’ views were sought on the criteria that should be used to assess libraries and f and what weighing should be applied.
Councillors made the following comments:
(1) Whilst officers indicated that usage was now a criterion, councillors felt usage had been considered extensively in the past. In addition, it was not appropriate to refine the delivery of the service to 4 criteria as a greater scope than this was required;
(2) The proposed change to service points was of concern. It was important that local access should continue so that local areas (for example Fishponds) should be seen as a community hub. There was not appropriate parking in central locations for people to use ie at Temple Street. Officers noted this comment in relation to Community Hubs and CSP’s and confirmed that maps were already being produced which indicated the key buildings available in a particular area. It was noted that expressions of interest may be sought for 28 libraries which might operate as a Community Hub;
(3) Whilst libraries did not need to be a physical space, a holistic approach was required in which the community’s views were sought on future arrangements. The local community consistently requested local access to service points;
(4) Community needs should not simply be based on a multi-deprivation score. For example, a large group of students from a nearby school could be using a library as a facility. It was too narrow to limit the service delivery to 4 criteria;
(5) There continued to be a silo approach to the service. Points 1 and 2 of the proposed new approach assumed that there would be fewer libraries. However, alternative approaches such as CAT (Community Asset Transfer) were not being suggested. There were also similar assumptions being made in respect of Neighbourhood Partnerships;
(6) There was no mention of the Swipe Card Access Pilot scheme in the report which was a key element of any future arrangements.
Action: Officers to provide an update report on the Swipe Card Access Pilot Scheme to Councillors – Kate Murray/Alison Comley;
(7) There seemed to be very little information in the report about innovative approaches for the future;
(8) The weighting did not seem very helpful. It did not take account of the implications of a 30% reduction in service. There needed to be evidence of an ethos in any new approach about how to provide a library service which added community value and was not just seen as an asset-based service.
The Chair of OSM made the following points:
(1) The success of the extended access service should not simply be judged on the first 2 months since the introduction of the extended access had taken place in conjunction with a change towards unmanned libraries. However, where it had been introduced, it had generally been very positive;
(2) Libraries played a crucial part in enriching the lives of older people;
(3) Community Hubs played a crucial role in all parts of the city;
(4) In areas of the city with lower library usage, work with various groups such as volunteers was important to make the new arrangements work.
In response to the comments made, officers made the following comments:
(1) It was heartening to hear the support for libraries;
(2) The details of the criteria to use would be brought to Councillors as soon as possible. The update report only set out a small part of the consultation document;
(3) Officers were continuing to look at what arrangements other cities had put in place. The process would be kept simple and clear to all.