Swindon Borough Council has renewed its commitment to boosting literacy levels by ensuring libraries across the town reach their full potential.
At Wednesday’s (6 Feb) Cabinet meeting, it was agreed that the Swindon Library and Information Service will be delivered directly by the Council in line with the authority’s pledge to offer opportunities that develop peoples’ skills.
The Swindon Library and Information Service Strategy aims to transform people’s lives through promoting literacy and a love of reading, helping people develop skills for jobs, improving health and wellbeing and facilitating participation in cultural and literary activities.
Through the Strategy, the Council has managed to keep all Swindon’s libraries open and has even opened up an extra one at the Swindon Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre at Cheney Manor Industrial Estate.
Instrumental in developing the Strategy have been the town’s parish councils. A number of them have committed to continuing to fund staff in the core libraries. This allows libraries to remain open with staff for extra hours: West Swindon for 16 extra hours a week, Park for 20 hours and Highworth for an extra 15 hours.
Opening hours have also been extended at libraries in Wroughton and Old Town.
Councillor Keith Williams, Cabinet Member for Corporate and Customer Services, said: “By keeping the library service in-house, we can use it to deliver some of our key priorities such as boosting literacy levels and helping people to develop their skills.
“We are serious about improving attainment in Swindon and we want people to have access to the wide range of cultural and literary sources that are already available.
“We have had a lot of support from parish and town councils and community library trusts and I would like to issue a big thank you to each of them.”
There were various options facing the future of Swindon’s library service, but it was concluded that the service being delivered directly by the Council presents the least risk and ensures that the Council can have direct control over ensuring that the strategy is delivered with strong staff and community engagement.
It also provides the significant opportunity to align services and contribute to a number of Council pledges and initiatives.
The National Literacy Trust’s Swindon Stories project already works with the Council’s Children’s Services department to improve literacy rates across the borough and keeping the library service in-house will help that relationship develop.
The Strategy will include effective community engagement that will be achieved by establishing a service-wide Friends group that can contribute to the development of the Strategy.