Library Service Review
Options for reshaping our library service
The library service consists of nine branch libraries located across the district and two mobile libraries to reach areas of the district not served by the branch libraries. The 'At Home' Service assists those that can't get to either a branch or mobile library and is largely operated through volunteers.
In addition to providing access to books, the library service also assists with early learning, adult continued learning, Internet access and teaching IT skills. The branch libraries also provide facilities for various arts and craft activities and are available for use by various community groups
Last year, we had been reviewing the library service and assessing the level of needs within the community in order to identify savings within the service. During November and December 2015, as part of the Phase One Budget Proposals, we consulted on a proposal to reduce the mobile service from two vehicles to one, and to merge Burghfield Common Library with Mortimer Library into one building located in Mortimer.
However, shortly before Christmas 2015, it was announced that our Revenue Support Grant settlement from central government would be significantly lower than expected. This meant we had to find additional savings, and as a result we consulted on a number of Phase Two Budget Proposals during February and March this year. As part of Phase Two, a more radical proposal for the library service was consulted on. The proposal was to reduce the library network by closing eight branch libraries and stopping the two mobile libraries; leaving only one branch library at Newbury and the 'At Home' service.
We received a large number of responses to the consultation process expressing concerns about the impact of the proposal, but also suggesting community support for the idea of working with us to keep libraries open.
The provision of transition funding from central government in early 2016 enabled us to keep all the branch libraries, and the mobile service, open whilst we undertook a more detailed needs assessment and considered alternative proposals for the library service, whilst delivering financial savings.
What are the options?
We still need to make substantial savings, but equally wish to retain a library service that is both comprehensive and efficient. However, to do so will need support from parish and town councils, community groups and the community in general. The Needs Assessment suggests a number of efficiency, and income generating, options. It also suggests that all branch libraries, with the exception of Wash Common, could stay open with the support of the community and town and parish councils.
We have identified three options for the library service, each one assuming:
the retention of Newbury library with a restructured team of employees
the closure of Wash Common library
the effective integration of the mobile library and 'At Home' services. The current two vehicle service will be amalgamated into one and the schedule of stops reviewed accordingly
increased income generation
a financial contribution from Town and Parish councils of at least £150,000 in total
community volunteers sharing the front line work in branch libraries
The other seven branch libraries to be run by staff working alongside community volunteers. We currently estimate that this will allow the retention of one employed member of staff at each branch.
This would save approximately £580,000 per year.
We refer to this, and Option C below, as a 'Hub and Spoke' model.
Of the other seven branch libraries, two (possibly one in the west and one in the east of the district) would be staffed as in Option A above (Hubs) and five would be volunteer run only (Spokes), but receive professional support from the Hubs.
This would save approximately £620,000 per year.
The other seven branch libraries to be volunteer run (Spokes) with staff only in Newbury (Hub).
This would save approximately £645,000 per year.
Each of the options above also assumes a level of support from us.
We will give remote professional support to the volunteers and community groups through a central support team and from the Hub(s), and will remain responsible for providing books and other stock (including title selection and stock rotation), a self service library system, access to public computers, printing and copying and the library building.
We will co-ordinate the engagement of volunteers across the libraries network and provide necessary training, working closely with the community.
What do we need from the Community, Parish and Town Councils?
A financial contribution of at least £150,000 per year in total.
Friends of Libraries groups, or other community organisations, to agree to manage a branch library (within the support noted above) on a day to day basis within a legal service level agreement that will ensure the opening of the library within the tenure of the agreement.
What do we think the impact will be?
We believe that the changes to the mobile service, by improving the integration of the 'At Home' service and rescheduling of stops, will maintain access to the service for the most vulnerable who would be unable to get to a branch library. It may however inconvenience some who previously used the mobile service, but could alternatively use a branch library.
There may be a risk of a branch operated solely by volunteers not opening, e.g. due to insufficient volunteers being available at a particular time.
Professional support for library users may be reduced with a slower response to queries and support. Volunteers will be provided with training and ongoing support to help to mitigate this.
Services, such as adult and early learning, access to IT and IT training, could be reduced within those branches not staffed by West Berkshire Council employees unless suitable volunteer support can be provided.
Please refer to the Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) [22kb] for more detail.
What else have we considered in arriving at our proposal?
We have looked at how income can be increased, but this would make only a small contribution towards the required savings.
We have previously explored shared services with other local authorities, but the savings potential is insufficient to meet the current savings need.
Many volunteers already contribute towards the delivery of the library service, and we continue to look to increase their involvement. In particular we are keen to expand the 'At Home' service to assist the most vulnerable and will remain reliant on volunteers to do this.
Why we would like your views
We would like to hear how these options will, if at all, affect you as an individual or your local community. In particular, we would be interested in any views you have on how we can minimise the impact that any of these options may have.
The suggested options do rely on support from the community and from town and parish councils, so we would like to know if you would be interested in supporting your library through volunteering.
This consultation is now closed.
Please note: Twitter and Facebook posts will not be considered as a valid response. Please use the link below to take part in the consultation.
What you told us1,287 responses were received. Of the three proposed Options, the best supported Option was A. Of those who answered the question:
58.1% agreed with Option A
9.5% agreed with Option B
6.1% agreed with Option C
Full details of the responses, considerations and recommendations can be seen in the documents below:
What we didTwo recommendations on how to reshape the Library Service were presented to Councillors at an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council on 7 February 2016 . It was recommended that:
- Council approve the adoption of Option A as the most appropriate structure for the Library service, with the proviso that different arrangements will be necessary in some libraries.
- Officers examine opportunities to pilot community run services where communities provide sufficient support in line with options B and C in order to achieve the full savings target of £690k, and that this could include consideration of any proposal from the community in Wash Common.
What happens next?
West Berkshire Council will work with parish and town councils and local community groups to reshape the Library Service in line with this decision.