Agenda item

Interim Report on Reconfiguration of Library Service


The Head of Business Processes provided an update on the library service available from the 15 community library sites following the Cabinet budget proposal of 15 December 2014 (reducing opening hours to 18 per week at these sites) which had been implemented from 16 March, 2015.


The report gave details of the impact of the changes over the months of April/May 2015 compared to the same period in 2014 with regards to customer usage at both community libraries and central and merged libraries. Customer and staff feedback on the changes was also provided within the report.


Although there had been an impact of implementing the revised opening hours at community libraries this had largely been mitigated by actions taken by the service, flexibility of the staffing resource or acceptance by the majority of customers of the new opening pattern.


The approximate 33% reduction in overall average usage at these sites should be taken in the context of a wider declining site usage (experienced to a lesser extent at other libraries not affected by these changes) as other channels were becoming popular such as online self-service and e-books.


The commitment given to continuing current activities / auxiliary services provided by partner agencies had been largely met with 89% of these regular events continuing in the same or updated format. These changes had also acted as a catalyst for securing community/volunteer support at certain sites, ensuring the on-going provision of services and proving this was a model that could be adopted more widely in the future. The feedback from a minority of active library users showed that whilst these regular borrowers felt the new hours had reduced the number of times they used their local library there was a significant proportion (43%) who confirmed no impact or indeed a positive outcome of the changes.


Responding to comments from Members the Head of Business Processes made a number of comments, including:


·  Several options as to reduced hours had been looked at but ultimately 18 hours was the decision taken by the Council to reflect the budget available.

·  The possibility of extending opening hours for the 15 Community libraries could happen as was already the case at one of the sites with volunteer help. There was also a need to balance some demographic issues, where some libraries would not have as much support from volunteers as to those which did.

·  With reference to the statistics in the report on average total and hourly usage he acknowledged there were differences between individual libraries and he would be able to provide a breakdown of the figures for each individual library.

·  There was a need to make sure the libraries were being used as much as possible within those hours which they were open. All libraries were now advertising their revised opening times.

·  There was no detail available as to the approximate 6% decrease in the usage of the central libraries, as this was only a three month snapshot and trends might be more easily identifiable with the six month review.

·  This interim report was to cover the impact on usage following changes to opening hours as officers were working to an existing library strategy. More time was needed to understand the impacts and a report would be brought to Cabinet and this Committee with a six month review.

·  As regards the future of the library service officers would continue to engage with friends groups.

·  He acknowledged the need for IT support to be available at libraries with more services now being offered online.

·  There were a number of trained professional librarians as well as a reference specialist. The number of children’s story times had been reduced because of the reduced opening times.

·  He clarified the current situation in respect of DBS checks and the work undertaken with HR colleagues on this.


The Head of Legal and Member Services confirmed that the guidance on DBS checking referred to regular contact but there was a need to ensure safeguarding issues were properly addressed.


Members made some suggestions as to issues which could form part of the work programme and a Task and Finish Group to look at lunchtime and late afternoon opening times and how the Council can make best use of its libraries. In doing this it would be helpful to look at the comparisons with neighbouring authorities.


Resolved – That the report be noted pending a full review of the impact of the revised community library opening hours.

Supporting documents: