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Forward planning begins for library service

library books on shelf

NEW out-of-hours options for libraries could be part of Staffordshire’s future, under suggestions to be considered this autumn.

The idea is one of several to be examined by councillors next week as the county council’s library service plans ahead for the next three years.

As well as making greater use of technology, other proposals on the table include increasing the number of community managed libraries and reviewing how the mobile and travelling service is used.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said: “Staffordshire’s library service is very important to us all, but the way people are using it is changing all the time and we must change with it to provide as flexible a service as possible that meets the needs of Staffordshire residents.”

Under the out-of-hours idea libraries would still be staffed for a core period during the day, for example from 10am to 5pm, but registered users could also access the building during certain periods outside those hours, for instance from 8am to 10am and from 5pm to 8pm.

No library would be completely self-service and the option doesn’t apply to community managed libraries.The self-service system is already being used successfully in other parts of the country, including Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire.

Gill Heath said: “Self-service is already up and running in other areas. We can look at what works well and how we might adapt that for use in Staffordshire to extend opening times and choice.”

The report, to be considered at next week’s meeting of the Prosperous Staffordshire scrutiny committee, asks for feedback on the ideas, which will then go to the County Council’s Cabinet in October.

If approved there, public consultation on different ideas would begin in the New Year.

The committee will also hear that during 2016/17, Staffordshire libraries, including the mobile and travelling service and seven prison libraries, issued 1.4m items to 25,000 members, but that overall issues for static libraries fell by 15.8 per cent on the previous year, while visits to mobile libraries reduced by half.

Gill Heath said: “Over the last three years we have reshaped the service in Staffordshire without closing any of our 43 libraries.

We’ve done that by consulting with library users, staff and the wider public about our aims and how we want to get there and that successful consultation is our template to talk about what happens next.”

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