As predicted on VB back in November, radical changes to the library service proposed. This just in from the council. Ed
A radical reshaping of the Island’s library service is being considered under plans published by the Isle of Wight Council.
The proposals will be put out to public consultation from 4 January to 7 February, ensuring residents have the chance to have a full say on the way ahead.
A major focus of the plans is the development of a community-led network of local library sites, called the Libraries Local network.
Five main elements
The proposed new-look service would feature five main elements:
1 – Libraries Extra – two well-stocked, enhanced libraries at Newport and Ryde, run by the council and open for 50 hours a week.
2 – Libraries Local – a range of family-friendly libraries in local communities developed and run by community groups and local businesses.
3 – Libraries Direct – mobile libraries bringing books and other materials to local communities, including in rural areas and to residential care homes.
4 – Libraries Home – a service for readers unable to leave their homes, probably provided through a voluntary sector organisation.
5 – Libraries Online – an extensive range of online services, available around the clock, from reserving books and downloading e-books, to using research tools and learning foreign languages.
Plans follow review
The plans have been drawn up following an extensive recent review of the Island’s libraries, including a public survey and research using national data.
The review has taken place against a backdrop of needing to provide a statutory service while delivering better value for money for Island residents.
The review looked at the service in light of the harsh economic realities facing the public sector on the Island. The council is facing revenue savings of £32 million over the next four years.
Retaining services at their current level is not possible due to the diminishing resources available to the council.
The review also took into account forthcoming ‘localism’ legislation, with an anticipated emphasis on local communities having the ‘right to save’ and the ‘right to run’ local services.
Currently, the library service provided by the council runs 11 public libraries (plus three sites in the Island’s prisons), a mobile library and a housebound service. It also runs a subscription-based service supporting learning and literacy levels in the Island’s schools.
The libraries in the prisons were not part of the review. They are funded directly from the Ministry of Justice at no cost to the council.
The survey carried out as part of the review found that 49 per cent of all library use comes at just two sites, Newport and Ryde – and 82 per cent was at six sites; Newport, Ryde, Cowes, Freshwater, Ventnor and Sandown.
Many respondents noted the role of libraries as places for meeting people locally, and the range of opening hours was also viewed as important.
Local needs expressed in public survey
Cabinet member responsible for libraries, Councillor George Brown, said: “This review took a close look at how to provide a comprehensive and efficient service in difficult economic times – taking into account the local needs expressed in the public survey.
“It is hoped that, against this background, the proposals offer local communities the chance to play a far greater role in protecting and developing our library services in the future.
“The public consultation in the New Year will give residents a chance to comment fully on these proposals.”
It is estimated the proposals will deliver savings to the council of £633,000 by April 2012, rising to £835,000 by April 2013. The current net cost of the service is £1.7 million a year.
The plans would initially involve the retention of six existing libraries for a full year from the start of April 2011, with the aim of these acting as hubs for community development. These would comprise the two new Libraries Extra (Newport and Ryde) and four sites to be open on a part-time basis from April 2011.
It is hoped this interim phase will act as a springboard for local groups and enterprises to offer Libraries Local in the longer term.
Four remain open part-time for another year
In terms of actual current library sites, the proposals would mean the following:
1 – Retained and enhanced: Newport and Ryde.
2 – Kept open for a year (from 1 April 2011), part-time: Cowes, Sandown, Ventnor, Freshwater. They would remain open to 31 March 2012 with a view to supporting the development of community-run libraries in their areas.
3 – Closed (from 31 March 2011): East Cowes, Bembridge, Shanklin, Niton and Brighstone. Although scheduled to close from 31 March 2011, approaches from community groups to take on these services would still be welcomed.
It is anticipated the network of Libraries Local would not be in place immediately and there will be a period of time to set these up. Eventually it is hoped these Libraries Local would be open for a minimum of ten hours a week.
Some Libraries Local may take the form of community libraries, while others could be collections of books available in different locations, such as community centres, shops or other venues. It may mean ultimately that the council’s book collection is available in far more places than currently, albeit the majority of these sites will not be funded by the council.
Under the new service, the council would continue to operate its schools’ library service through its current contractual arrangements.
The two special collections held by the library service, maritime and music, would initially be held at library headquarters at Somerton until new homes and management arrangements could be identified.
Details of the consultation on the proposals will be provided in the New Year. The consultation will run from 4 January to 7 February.