Proposed Core Library Network Extended Following Consultation
Park Library has been added to a network of core libraries as part of a new proposed library strategy to be discussed by Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet next week (7 December).

The strategy is in direct response to the financial pressures facing the Council and the need to save £1.5m from the library’s budget by 2020.

The previous strategy proposed creating a core network of four libraries including Central, North Swindon, West Swindon and Highworth.

But, following a two-month consultation period in which 1,632 responses were received, changes have been made to include five libraries in the core provision.

Cllr Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to take part in the public consultation as well as fellow councillors on the Member Task Group as all their input has been invaluable in putting together this updated draft strategy.

“I am pleased we have been able to increase the core provision to include Park Library. Discussions are already well underway to secure community-led library provision at Wroughton, Covingham and Upper Stratton and so I am asking cabinet colleagues to approve transitional funding for these at this stage.

“Other libraries where discussions are underway include Liden and Walcot, while we are also talking to other community groups.

“So straight away we could be looking at retaining a great deal of Swindon’s existing library provision and we want to see that figure increase even further by encouraging any groups with an interest in securing community-led library provision in their area to come forward.”

The new model means that the core libraries meet 80 per cent of current visits and that 84 per cent of current library users and 91 per cent of Swindon households are within two miles of a library.

The proposed library strategy also states that the core provision would be supported by investment in technology to allow access to library buildings outside of staffed hours. Under the new model, staffed hours in Central Library will change to 47.5 hours a week, while 15 hours a week of staffed hours will be available at North, West, Highworth and Park libraries.

The library service will be delivered by qualified librarians and trained library staff, while support will be available to ward councillors to develop parish, school or community-led local library services.

Half a million pounds in transitional funding is available to pay for the one-off costs of viable community-led solutions. And, in response to the consultation, the Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve an initial tranche of this funding to secure community-led library services in Wroughton, Covingham and Upper Stratton.

The strategy proposes to repurpose the library service’s outreach and learning services so that targeted literacy and learning programmes are delivered in communities where library usage is low. The libraries team are working with the Council’s Skills and Employment team to extend the adult learning offer around digital literacy and skills. The libraries team are also working on new approaches to delivering community IT provision from next August.

As part of the consultation, library staff submitted a proposal which included a five library core provision, additional staffed hours and the establishment of a trust model to deliver library services. The Council is keen to investigate the trust model and, working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as well as other partners, and overseen by the cross-party Member Task Group, Council officers will assess the feasibility of establishing a trust solution and will report back to February’s Cabinet meeting.

If the proposed library strategy is approved by Cabinet and then the Scrutiny Committee the following Monday, all current libraries will move to reduced hours from 5 April 2017 with extended opening arrangements being put in place at the five core libraries from that date, subject to the technology being installed.

The Council will also invite expressions of interest for community-led library services by 31 January 2017. Applications must then be submitted to the Council by 31 March 2017 with decisions being made by 30 April 2017.

Non-core libraries will see opening hours reduced to 15 hours per week from 5 April 2017 and it is anticipated those libraries will now remain funded until 31 August 2017, allowing a longer lead-in time for the development of community proposals.

However, due to the urgent need to reduce costs the mobile library and deposit collections will stop from 31 March 2017. Information and support will be provided to those people who use those services to enable them to continue to access library services in different ways.

Under the proposals the Home Library service will continue to support residents with limited mobility and the libraries team are working with RVS to promote the service to those affected by the changes to the mobile library and deposit collection arrangements.