‘Have your say’ plea as Stevenage and Hitchin libraries given top tier rating in 10-year strategy

Herts County Council want to hear from the public after agreeing a new 10-year strategy for librarie

Herts County Council want to hear from the public after agreeing a new 10-year strategy for libraries - Credit: Archant

A three-tiered library service is set to be introduced but those behind a new strategy are urging the public to have their say to ensure each facility remains at the heart of the community it serves.

Councillor Frances Button spoke to the Comet on Friday

Councillor Frances Button spoke to the Comet on Friday - Credit: Archant

Councillor Frances Button, who leads on library issues at Herts County Council, spoke to the Comet on Friday after panel members unanimously agreed plans for delivering a new 10-year strategy, as well as how the authority will consult with the public on its proposals.

‘Inspiring Libraries’ is centred on three main aims – making each library a vibrant community asset, creating a digital savvy environment and using each facility as a gateway to reading, information and general wellbeing.

A new three-tiered structure has been put forward, reflecting the level of services available.

Across the county, 11 of the 46 operating libraries have been ranked in the first tier – including Stevenage Central and Hitchin – and will offer the broadest range of services under the longest opening hours, with library staff on hand at all times.

Baldock and Letchworth both fall under the second category – which will provide core services with the option to have extended hours through volunteer supervised self-service.

Stevenage Old Town and Knebworth libraries are ranked under the third tier, with self-service facilities which can be added to with the help of volunteers.

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“The idea is to increase community involvement and make every library the heart of its community, as our libraries are not used to the full at the moment,” said Councillor Button.

“I see them as being a real community hub which can be used as a meeting point and as a base for groups.”

The library service currently has an annual budget of £15.8 million, but savings of £2.5m need to be made over the next three years.

Taryn Pearce, the assistant director for customer services and libraries at the county council, said: “We want to offer the best service possible but the cost of this comes from the public purse so we need to be a bit more customer savvy and business-orientated in our thinking. We need to increase income – that could mean hiring library space or buying a coffee. We want the community to have their say on how each library will run as each has its own identity.”

A public consultation on the Inspiring Libraries strategy – shaped by more than 15,000 responses last year – opens on Monday and runs until December 7.

To comment visit www.hertsdirect.org/libraries.