The public are being asked to tell Swindon Council what they think of a draft strategy designed to enhance the town’s library service to it more sustainable.
It builds on the current library strategy which has seen about 200 volunteers and six friends’ groups working with libraries across the borough. The volunteers include those from RVS who operate the Home Library Service for more than 200 customers, particularly the elderly.
The emerging strategy will take into account the need to reduce the cost of council services whilst recognising the role that libraries play within communities.
Swindon, which has 16 libraries and is in the top quarter of unitary authorities for the number of libraries per head of population, has a number of neighbourhood libraries co-located in community centres, while Walcot Library is operated by a community group with support from the council’s library service.
The consultation will run until Monday, 14 April.
See the strategy at www.swindon.gov.uk/librarystrategy
Tell the council what libraries mean to you and how you would like to see the library service delivered in the future by mailing: email@example.com or write to: Cllr Keith Williams, Library Strategy Consultation, Cabinet Office, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, SN1 2JH.
An online questionnaire will be available in the week of 21 January at www.swindon.gov.uk. Paper copies will also be available in libraries.
Cllr Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Strategic Transport and Leisure who is responsible for libraries, said: “We are facing unprecedented financial challenges and have to find savings of £48m over the next three years. To do that we need to look closely at how we deliver services and make changes to reflect our financial position.
“We are lucky to have so many libraries in Swindon and we know how much they are valued by local communities, which is why this strategy is so important, as it will define how the service can be made sustainable in years to come.
“I would urge anyone who values and has an interest in the library service to let us know how they would like to see the service operate in the future so we can best shape the service to meet their needs.”
However local historian and editor of Swindon Heritage is puzzled by the council’s move. He said: "I’m puzzled why Swindon Borough Council are conducting an expensive so-called ‘consultation’ when decisions have already been made.
"Despite saying, in the recently published Heritage Strategy, that the libraries’ Local Studies collection is a key asset and important for our economy, they have already sacked a hard-working member of staff who was responsible for helping the public with access to this large and complex archive.
"The best way to encourage use of the collection and libraries in general, and encourage more volunteers, is to have expert staff on hand every day. As long as the Council is saying one thing and doing another, they will never get the volunteers they need to run libraries or other services.