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Committee to consider new proposals for libraries

This news article was published more than a year ago. Some of the information may no longer be accurate.

Published: 31/08/2016


Following a huge response to public consultation on the future of library services in South Gloucestershire, the Environment and Community Services (ECS) Committee will consider new proposals in September.

In the Spring, we invited the community to give us their views on a range of options for running a sustainable library service into the future. Changes are required because the service needs to reduce its funding as part of the Council Savings Programme. We also emphasised that we were keen to find alternative options and that we anticipated the future shape of library services would look very different from the ‘fall back’ positions included in the consultation.

Residents rose to this challenge and responded in record numbers, with more than 3,500 responses, plus petitions, expressing their preferences on how libraries could best be delivered to meet their priorities with reduced funding.

Following that consultation process and building on additional work to identify options for the future, new plans have now been put forward. Through the use of new technology it will be possible to actually extend the libraries’ opening hours. The technology will allow people to use libraries at times when there are no staff present through having swipe card access on entrance doors.

At the same time, the initially proposed reductions in staff hours have also been scaled back in the new plans. This means that while still reduced, paid staff will be present for more time and at times of peak usage across libraries.

The savings target for the library service has also been reviewed and it is proposed that the service will need to save £500,000 within the budget of £2.6 million.

The consultation feedback clearly indicated peoples’ priorities as ‘having a library local to you’, with 61 per cent of respondents rating this as their most important requirement, followed by ‘having a good range of books and other stock available’ (19 per cent). The public also emphasised that any changes to opening hours should reflect the patterns of use at each library.

Individuals, groups and other organisations such as town and parish councils, were also invited to express their interest in playing a role in delivering or supporting any aspects of library services. Discussions between us and those who expressed an interest have followed the consultation process to explore how library services can be provided in a range of collaborative ways.

Councillor Heather Goddard, Chair of the ECS Committee, said: “I want to thank the community for their enthusiastic response to this consultation, as well as the staff working in libraries and behind the scenes for their work to build on the original proposals and to come up with these new options. I think these new plans offer a positive vision for sustainable, accessible and affordable library services, protected for the future.

“The consultation responses echoed the value we place on the work done by our library staff and the range of services delivered through our libraries. These new proposals will protect the maximum possible paid staff time and through the new Open Plus technology, actually allow users to take advantage of many library services all day, every day.

“While the Open Plus approach is an exciting opportunity to extend basic library services far beyond their current offering in terms of opening hours, it would only be as an extra to the full-service provision that our library staff deliver. Our staff are crucial to our libraries and the options for consideration by the ECS Committee are about ensuring that we can continue to have those staff as part of our libraries for the long term.”

If the recommendations are accepted by the ECS Committee a further period of consultation will take place on what staffed hours users would like to see for each library.

The full details of the proposals for consideration are contained in the committee report published today, which can be found online – agenda item 10. Here you will also find details of the potential changes to services at each library under the new proposals.

More details about the library changes are available online at www.southglos.gov.uk/librarychanges.

Once the Committee agrees to a potential way forward, there will be a second period of consultation where proposals for individual libraries will be open for feedback from the local community. They will be invited to comment, for example, on which days and times would suit the majority to have staff present. If accepted by the committee the proposals will be implemented in October 2017.

The ECS Committee will meet on Wednesday 7 September at 2pm, but has been moved to take place at The Armstrong Hall, Chapel Street, Thornbury.


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