A NEW five-year commitment to support Staffordshire’s innovative library service has been approved.
Confirmation of the financial support until 2025 was made today by the County Council’s Cabinet.
Councillors heard that the service had been transformed in recent years, in part through the commitment of more than 1,100 volunteers giving the equivalent of £1.4m worth of time.
There are now 27 Community Managed Libraries in Staffordshire, while the 16 busier ones are still run directly by the county council.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “The way people use libraries has changed so much over the last decade, so we are evolving too to keep them at the heart of their communities.
“Our 43 libraries are visited more than 2.7 million times a year and we are committed to their future.”
A report on the service’s successes and development between now and 2025 says there no plans to create more Community Managed Libraries, but support will continue for the existing 27, whose five-year leases begin to come up for renewal from 2021.
Staffordshire County Council will continue its professional support for Community Managed Libraries, as well as underwriting agreed running costs and providing access to IT support and book stocks.
Gill Heath added: “As well as providing the core service, Community Managed Libraries have the flexibility to introduce a whole range of activities within their walls to keep them relevant for their communities.
“Projects can range from support for people starting their own businesses or access training schemes to change careers, to bereavement support groups and mental health support schemes.
“We have had more than 400,000 attendances at learning and wellbeing activities, including ‘school readiness’ for mothers and toddlers, ‘knit and natter’ and dementia awareness sessions.
“Libraries are wonderful places, safe places where we can do many things and this commitment today keeps them close to our hearts.”
Other plans include asking the community libraries to reclaim 80 per cent business rate relief if they are eligible to do so and the scheduled introduction of a self-service pilot outside core hours at Stafford library.