THREE months of consultation over the best way forward for Staffordshire’s libraries begins today (Jan 8).
Discussions will include potentially using technology to maintain and extend opening hours with an automated service, increasing the number of community managed libraries and reviewing how the mobile and travelling service is used.
Although Staffordshire has 43 libraries, this review only applies to the 20 which are still directly managed and run by the county council.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said: “We have worked hard in recent years to buck the trend of closures happening in so many other places and have succeeded in keeping all Staffordshire’s 43 libraries open and part of our statutory provision.
“This consultation is about looking to the future and examining ideas already being used in other parts of the country to see how we can keep our libraries relevant to people’s changing needs.”
Since 2014, following extensive public consultation, 23 of the county’s libraries have been transferred, or are in the process of being transferred, to community groups which take over the management and day-to-day running of the building, while the council remains responsible for agreed utility bills and maintenance costs.
These 23 libraries are not being considered in this consultation. Gill Heath added: “The community-managed libraries are already doing good things in their neighbourhoods, evolving into flexible hubs adding other services local people want.”
People will be asked to comment on possible options for each of the remaining 20 libraries, specifically:
- maintaining and extending existing opening hours by using technology to allow registered users access to the library outside core hours. No library would become completely self-service;
- maintaining and extending existing opening hours by using more volunteers;
- becoming a community-managed library, where a group takes over the management and day-to-day running, with access to all the council’s library resources, while the authority remains responsible for agreed utility bills and maintenance costs.
All 20 libraries involved in the process will be considered for the options involving maintaining and extending existing opening hours. They are: Biddulph, Burntwood, Burton, Cannock, Cheadle, Clayton, Codsall, Eccleshall, Kidsgrove, Leek, Lichfield, Newcastle, Penkridge, Perton, Rugeley, Stafford, Stone, Tamworth, Uttoxeter and Wombourne.
As well as the different ways of maintaining and extending existing opening hours, the four ‘least busy’ libraries will also be considered for suitability to become community-managed libraries. They are Cheadle, Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge.
Gill Heath said: “Nothing is set in stone, but we want to talk to different communities about different ideas and discuss the possibilities for the way forward.”
The consultation lasts until April 1 and there will be events, advertised locally and at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/connectedlibraries , at every county council managed library and at 10 mobile and travelling library stops.
People can also use the same website to leave their comments, fill in a questionnaire at any library, or email email@example.com to have their say.