West Berkshire Council

Town and parish councils asked to support library service

Town and parish councils given more information how they could support local libraries.

Newbury library

Changes to how library services are delivered in West Berkshire have taken a step forward this week with town and parish councils given more information how they could support libraries.

Over the summer a library service review was conducted to provide different ways it could be run in the future which would allow branch libraries to remain open while delivering savings for the Council. The review found that it would be possible to keep open all but one library by making greater use of volunteers, allowing communities to run their local library and seeking a financial contribution from town and parish councils.

The Council has today (Tuesday 29 November) written to town and parish councils asking them to support the library service by:

  • Considering running a library with ongoing support from the Council including providing volunteer training, help with recruiting volunteers, purchase and distribution of books and maintenance of library IT, internet access and library buildings owned by the Council, and;
  • Making financial contributions equivalent to just under £1 per person in their area and which would provide the £150,000 contribution suggested in the review.

Details of a public consultation on changes to the library service can be found on our website and closes at midnight on Sunday 11 December.

Speaking about the latest discussions Councillor Dominic Boeck, West Berkshire Council's Executive Member for Culture, said: "From the outset town and parish councils have expressed interest in supporting their libraries. Some were understandably unsure about how much was being asked or how an arrangement might work. Today we have written to them setting out what we think would be a fair contribution. Our summer review acknowledged the tremendous goodwill from residents and we are optimistic about reaching agreements with our communities.

"We have no choice but to ask because demand for council services is rising, and at the same time we are receiving less funding from central government. We have to adapt our library service to meet future need so that we can continue providing a good service while at the same time balancing our budget each year. I'm confident that in the coming months we will be able to achieve this.

"Our consultation on our library service review is open for a few more days and I'd encourage people to have their say. In each of the options we propose making greater use of volunteers alongside our library staff. I hope that anyone who loves their library, has some spare time and wants to give back to their community considers getting involved. We recognise that you will be supporting us and we will support you too to make sure volunteering is easy, enjoyable and rewarding."

To read the library service consultation and have your say visit our website.

The West Berkshire library service already uses volunteers - details of current vacancies can be found online at www.westberks.gov.uk/volunteer