Library closure fears dispelled
FEARS have been allayed that libraries may close as a council battles to balance its books and save more than �550,000 in running costs by 2014.
Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) has approved a 15-year Library Service Strategy for the 12 libraries in the area, including one in Shefford and one in Stotfold, with no libraries closing.
Efficiencies will instead be made through reducing back room costs and investing in self-service technology.
The Future of Libraries public consultation was launched in October last year and concluded in January. It prompted fears that libraries would be forced to close due to a lack of funding, despite assurances from the council that closures were not planned.
It is intended that each library will have a different focus, depending on what people want – a family library, computers and technology learning, a library as a community space, or as a place to read and relax, for instance.
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Of the respondents to the consultation, 70 per cent want Shefford Library to be a family library, with support for more lending materials (21 per cent) and improvement to opening hours (eight per cent).
Decoration, layout and use of space need to be addressed and there is the potential to create a read and relax area with refreshments.
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With regard to Stotfold Library, 64 per cent of respondents want a family library, with 50 per cent requesting email alerts and newsletters.
A fresh layout has also been highlighted, and a feasability study is required to explore the options for the existing building to deal with planned growth in the area.
For both libraries, initiatives earmarked include installing self-service technology, increasing users through outreach activities such as IT sessions and promoting the service to older people.
A review of opening hours and the potential to use the libraries out of hours for small groups, surgeries and advice sessions will also be explored.
Cllr Brian Spurr, CBC’s executive member for sustainable communities services, said: “Libraries in Central Bedfordshire are recognised as an invaluable community service, providing access to learning, information and culture for everyone. It is because of this the council has decided no library should close.
“We do realise however that libraries will need to become more efficient to meet savings targets, and modernise to meet the future needs of residents. We believe this strategy sets out how we can successfully achieve this.”
To read the strategy in full, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/library-service-review.aspx