South Gloucestershire launches second-phase consultation on the future of library services
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All residents of South Gloucestershire are being encouraged to take part in the second phase of consultation on the future of the council’s library services over the next three months.
Building on feedback from the first consultation phase and work by officers to identify alternatives, the council has a new preferred position to ensure the long-term sustainability of the library service. This consultation will allow the public to feed back on that position ahead of decisions being made.
At the heart of the new proposals is a reduced savings target, reduced from £650,000 to £500,000, from an annual budget of £2.6million. This means that staffed hours would not be reduced by as much as previously anticipated.
The plans also propose introducing an ‘open access’ technology that would mean extended opening hours for libraries when no staff are on duty, potentially from 8:30am – 7:30pm, 7 days a week. This would be an extension of opening hours of up to 100 per cent over current hours and could make libraries much more accessible to people who cannot normally get to them during current opening times. Investment in this technology would cost up to £400,000 in one-off funding not available to spend annually on running costs.
It is also proposed that the mobile library service be replaced with community centre-based libraries across South Gloucestershire and run by volunteer groups. The Council would also fund the building costs of Chipping Sodbury Library with the service being delivered by volunteers. These plans would mean that no library building would have to close as a result of the savings.
Views are sought on each of these proposals as well as peoples’ preferences for patterns of staffed opening hours. The preferred plans see libraries grouped into geographical ‘clusters’ with the aim of ensuring that there is a staffed library open each day (Monday to Saturday). These clusters include libraries with different numbers of opening hours that are ‘tiered’ based on the current level of usage.
While the consultation process is underway the council will also be conducting a pilot of a form of open access technology, called Open Plus, at Bradley Stoke library. While the technology is widely used in parts of Europe and increasingly across the UK, it is important that we can get first-hand experience and identify the ways in which we would need to adapt it to work for South Gloucestershire if a decision is made to adopt it. That pilot will begin later in the Autumn and library users at Bradley Stoke will be invited to register for the service, be given an induction on how to use the service and be asked for feedback on their experiences.
The technology works by granting registered library members the ability to use their existing library card with a PIN to ‘swipe in’ to the library. Their card will act as a key to release the door lock and the door will open. All the services – lights, heating, and computers – will be activated upon entry.
The library will be covered by CCTV which will record both inside the building and outside, and each person entering will be recorded. At closing time an announcement will warn people in plenty of time that the library that the building is closing. Once closed, if someone has not left the building, an alarm will be activated and security staff will be alerted.
The current proposals are that all library users over the age of 16 will be able to register for open access and this is one of the areas that we are keen to hear feedback on. The registration process will include an induction session to learn how open access works.
Once registered, open access library members will be able to use all the services currently available when staff are present – use the quiet space to meet or study, borrow or return books and other items through the self-service kiosks, use the computers and Wi-Fi, or use the printer/photocopier.
Councillor Heather Goddard, Chair of the Environment and Community Services (ECS) committee, said: “We were pleased with the level of support for the first phase of consultation and the depth of responses we had. Building on that feedback we have adopted an alternative option that means we can retain more staff hours, but also potentially offer current and potential library users more access to services.
“We want to hear from everyone, current library users as well as those who may be encouraged to use libraries out of current hours, about how they would prefer us to proceed.
“We will also use the experience gained through the Bradley Stoke library open access pilot, as well as learning from other areas in the UK, where technology has become an integral part of the way people use libraries to help us work out how we could make it work for South Gloucestershire.
“I believe that many library users and potentially many who cannot get to a library during current opening hours, will look forward to the prospect of being able to browse and borrow books, use the computers and use other library services when the buildings would normally be closed.”
The consultation process will run until 2 January 2017. Full details are available online at www.southglos.gov.uk/librarychanges. Consultation documents will also be available in all council libraries and One Stop Shops. Additionally there will be two public There will be two public meetings to discuss these proposals, at Yate Library on Tuesday 1 November at 7pm, and at Kingswood Library on Thursday 10 November at 7pm.
Following this process, a final decision will be made in the New Year with implementation to take place in October 2017.
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