The county council is currently carrying out a review of the county’s library service.
In light of declining usage, this review aims to make sure the service can continue to be enjoyed by the people of Cumbria for years to come.
We are currently part way through this review, having carried out a major consultation from between April and May.
Why are we reviewing the service?
In common with library services across the country, use of Cumbria’s libraries has been in decline over recent years.Since 2005 the number of items borrowed has dropped 18%, and the number of visitors has dropped by 20 per cent.We know how important libraries are to people in Cumbria, so this review is about looking at alternative ways to provide the service so that we can stop and ideally reverse this decline in use.
We held a major public consultation between April and June 2011. through this consultation we encouraged as many local people as possible to have their say on the future of libraries, through events, online, information in libraries, discussion forums and much more.As a result we received around 4000 comments from members of the public.We asked you about what is great and what needs improving about Cumbria’s libraries, and your views on our suggestions for change. See the full consultation document here. (PDF 1.01MB)
There is a full report about the results of the consultation available here (PDF 1.25MB)
Here is a brief summary of what you told us:
You told us what makes libraries great
· Libraries are social places – not just somewhere to borrow books – and a library near where you live is valuable
· Books are the most important reason people use libraries, and a better book stock is a must.
· Computers, the internet and DVDs are also important
· Friendly and knowledgeable staff matter!
· For children libraries are valuable places to learn, play, build confidence and have fun
· Mobile libraries mean people who find travelling difficult can access a library
You also gave us your opinions on how to improve the service
· Opening hours should be right for each community, and be convenient for help school children and working people, too
· Tea and coffee facilities and comfy chairs would be a popular improvement
· Better marketing will help more people use libraries and we can do more to involve local communities in libraries
· By sharing buildings with other services we can save money support other local services
· You want there to be more available computers in branches
Then you gave your opinions on our suggestions for change
Libraries extras would be situated in main towns and would provide a comprehensive service across the county. They would be community hubs which provide a range of services, with longer and more consistent opening hours.
On the whole you liked the idea, but said they should not detract from smaller local libraries. You told us you need more information about the what services libraries extras would offer and how they would link in with small branches.
These would be libraries or book stocks in village halls, shops or schools, for example. They would be led by the community and services would differ in each area. A Community Outreach Librarian would be on hand to offer support.
· You said community libraries would need a good book stock and be social places, too.
· Volunteers could help but they should be supported by professional staff or Community Outreach Librarians
· Book-drops and Library Links are popular ways to bring the library service to areas where there aren’t any currently.
24/7 Virtual library
A place to renew books online, manage your account, and even join reading groups and download audio books.
Most people with internet access felt this would be a good improvement but not replacement for physical libraries. We also need to improve the current website to make it more user friendly.
We asked for your views on mobile libraries in Cumbria
· Whilst they are much loved by users, they don’t meet the needs of working people or school children.
· Whilst many people were happy for us to look at alternatives, they need to be convenient and easy to access for rural residents.
Following the consultation
We analysed all the responses we received and produced a report for the county council’s Cabinet members. On 15 September 2011 they made a decision as to how to move forward with changes to the service, as a result of your views. Follow this link (PDF 143.79KB)for the full Cabinet paper.
Cabinet members decided that the best approach would be a series of different but related projects to modernise the library service.This means that changes to the service would be different according to local needs and circumstances – something which you told us was vital to the success of the service in future.These projects would be carried out in partnership with communities and councillors on the council’s local committees in each district.
Approaches to delivering these improvements include:
· Libraries Extras: Large libraries which act as community hubs and are situated in main towns, providing a comprehensive service across the county.
· Library Links which provide facilities to borrow and return books in isolated communities
· Community Libraries: book stocks in places like village halls, shops or schools.
· A Community Librarian: a member of staff who can make the service more proactive by taking it out to hard to reach areas and people.
As a direct result of your ideas to improve the service we will also be examining:
· How libraries are promoted in communities
· Better opening hours
· The continuation of the roll out of self- service equipment,
· How we can create income from renting DVDs, audio books and more
· The range of online services
· Proposals for in-house shops and cafes on a number of sites
Following consideration of the consultation feedback the library service will be working with local committees and local communities on a district by district basis to look at the potential for new ways of providing a library service.We are now beginning work to look at how we can begin to pilot these approaches in different areas around the county.
We will keep you updated with progress as it happens.