West Berkshire Council

Plans for new library service model unveiled

Plans for a new library service model have been unveiled.

Newbury library

A re-designed library service in West Berkshire will see library staff working alongside volunteers at each of the seven branch libraries under new plans announced today (Monday 30 January).

The library service was reviewed last year to allow West Berkshire Council to explore new ways of delivering the service at a time when local authority budgets continue to be squeezed. Following the review Councillors will consider changes to the library service when they meet next week. Under plans for the service:

  • Eight libraries will remain open, each staffed by at least one librarian and supported by more volunteers
  • The At Home service will continue providing a service to people unable to visit their local library due to age, disability or other special circumstances
  • One mobile library will be retained to continue providing an easily accessible service in more isolated communities  
  • Wash Common library will close and a new stop be included on the mobile library route  - subject to any alternative proposal to run the library being put forward by the community

The new plan has been developed following engagement with local communities, library groups, staff and consultants who conducted a needs assessment on behalf of the council. In addition, almost 1,300 responses were received as part of a public consultation on different options for the service. Overall, 58% supported keeping library staff at all branches rather than more volunteer-led options, which is reflected in the final proposal.

West Berkshire Council has also asked town and parish councils to support the library service with a donation of £1 per resident in recognition of the value communities place on their libraries. These discussions have already started and the responses from those town and parish councils we've met with so far have been encouraging. 

Councillors will discuss and vote on the new plan at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 7 February. The meeting is open to the public.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Councillor Dominic Boeck, Executive Member for Culture said: "Our communities love their libraries and in redesigning the service we've worked hard to keep as much as we can. However, the grim reality we face in terms of squeezed budgets is that we can no longer afford to run the service as we've done in the past. Our new plan allows us to keep eight libraries open and continue the important outreach work we do delivering books to those of our residents unable to travel to their local library.

"It is because our communities love their library service that we are proposing to invite more people in to volunteer and help us maintain the best service possible. When responding to the consultation more than 120 people said they would be willing to volunteer which is very encouraging for us and a credit to our residents. Volunteers already support libraries and work has started in earnest to recruit more and harness the goodwill we know is in our communities."

There are already 11 different volunteering opportunities within the library service and more will be available soon. West Berkshire Council has produced an online form to help match those interested in volunteering with suitable roles. The form is available at www.westberks.gov.uk/volunteer.

You can read the report on the future library service online.

Who To Contact

For enquiries and information on West Berkshire libraries.

01635 519900