A new model of delivering library services which will be developed with library users and local people will be brought before Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet in June.
Councillors last night (10 Feb) agreed to develop a new draft library strategy for the town in order to achieve a reduction in the libraries’ budget of at least £1.5m by 2020. A total of £300,000 will be saved from the library budget next year (2016-17).
The council’s cabinet also agreed to use some of the recently announced £826,000 Transition Fund from central government to undertake a rigorous engagement process and provide funding to both engage increased numbers of volunteers interested in local service provision in future, and support the transition to new service models as part of the Council’s Going Local programme of work, which includes libraries.
The council will engage with library users, staff, residents and community groups in the run up to June’s meeting to gather more information about the library service and give people an opportunity to help build the strategy in partnership with the council.
The budget reduction over the next four years is a direct result of the continuing financial constraints facing the council, with an increasing proportion of the council’s money set to be spent on vulnerable people.
To define the library strategy, an emerging library model will be used as an initial starting point to engage with ward councillors, library users, residents and community groups.
The emerging model proposes a core service provided at the Central Library, which could be enhanced by a reduced level of targeted services and support to areas with the highest level of need. The council will also actively seek conversations with users and local people to develop alternative approaches and ideas.
Community groups and local groups will be encouraged and supported to develop Local Community Service Points for library and other community services.
The council will also work with six pilot areas and other areas where interest develops in order to develop and implement new models of delivery for library and community services to test and inform the new library strategy.
Local groups and communities will be encouraged to consider how library services could be delivered in their area and to put forward ideas of how a new library model could deliver a quality and sustainable service within the service’s new financial budget.
The council has produced a report to assess the library usage and the reach of the current library facilities and this will be used to shape the new library strategy.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, said: “The financial reality is that we can’t continue to fund all our services as we do now because we know that in just a few years around 90 per cent of our budget will be spent on vulnerable people.
“The way people are using libraries has also changed over the years and library facilities are being used for a wide variety of community activities. Volunteers are also playing an important role in many libraries.
“We haven’t decided we are closing any libraries, but we will have less money to run the service and that is why we are asking people what that library provision could look like.”
The council will discuss the future strategy with library users, community groups, partners and schools between February and May and a number of engagement events will be held at all libraries across the borough over the coming weeks.
Additional information will also be gathered about current users of all library services and activities to understand their ideas and consult on the potential impacts of the emerging model.
Further information about the libraries proposal and the Needs Assessment can be found on the council website: www.swindon.gov.uk/librariesfuture or in the latest cabinet report: or http://tinyurl.com/hrrgn7x