Future of our library service
The council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve a new look library service when they meet on Tuesday 22nd September 2015. The new proposal keeps 24 libraries open across the district, with just two closures.
The plan – which follows a four-month libraries consultation where 5,000 of you responded – includes retaining eight fully staffed town libraries, and 16 community supported libraries. However, under the proposal, the mobile service will be withdrawn.
Cllr Graham Turner (portfolio holder with cabinet responsibility for the library service) said the plan was the best balance between achieving the service ambitions of everybody having access to a library, and the budget demands of saving £1.8 million.
When we started looking at what we could deliver within our reduced budget, I wanted to make sure that we preserved as much of the service as possible and to ensure that we could provide as many access points to a library service as possible, and not embark on a wholesale closure programme. I believe with the help of volunteers and hardworking committed staff we have achieved this.
Libraries are hubs of community activity and offer important access to the internet for many who do not have that at home. They are no longer quiet places just for books and research.
In many cases they have evolved into community hubs, where many groups meet, such as `knit and natter’, walking groups, craft groups and reading groups. They provide a warm welcoming environment to their users. They can also help alleviate social isolation, and help with our early intervention and prevention strategy, helping people live better lives.
I am thankful to all those who took part in our consultation and none of my colleagues has been left in any doubt about the strength of feeling and support for the service.
So in deciding what the future service could look like, officers used specific criteria, while the consultation sought public views on three types of library – town, community supported and community run – as well as other ways of delivering a service like book drops, home library service and transcription service.”
Proposed town libraries – staffed by council employees:
- Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton, Mirfield, Birstall, Heckmondwike and Holmfirth.
Proposed community supported libraries – staffed by one council employee, supported by volunteers:
- Almondbury, Birkby / Fartown, Chestnut Centre, Denby Dale, Golcar, Greenwood Centre, Honley, Kirkheaton, Kirkburton, Lindley, Marsden, Meltham, Rawthorpe / Dalton, Shepley, Skelmanthorpe and Slaithwaite.
In these areas, the service has been working with “friends” groups to strengthen volunteer support.
The two libraries proposed for closure are Thornhill Lees and Lepton.
Cllr Turner said the significant savings will be made from the two closures, stopping the mobile service, and reducing opening hours across the static libraries by up to 40%.
Thornhill Lees library is used very little and there was little appetite from volunteers to come forward. Lepton is similar, in that the number of users is low and falling, with not enough interest from volunteers.
We currently have five mobile libraries with a spare as cover – these are more expensive to run than static libraries, and the analysis shows that only 0.6% of the population uses the service. Of those that do, more than half live within a mile of a static library, and 44% live within two miles of one. Only 12 people, or 0.46% of users, live outside of two miles from a library building. We will contact these 12 directly to talk about alternatives.
Our proposals are in line with what other councils are doing, especially regarding the mobile service, the use of volunteers and single staff in libraries. I would like to thank the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard so far, and have actively helped to create this proposal.”
If Cabinet agree, the closures will take place from 1st April 2016, with a reduction of 88 full time equivalent staff in the library service.
In the consultation, residents said they would consider having several services in the same buildings, which would allow library services to continue in the future, but not necessarily in the same building. The report asks for authority to be given to council officers to look at future building use.