The county council unveiled its proposed Derbyshire Public Library Service Strategy `Libraries for Derbyshire’ in April and outlined its commitment to keeping libraries open as it launched a 12-week consultation to gather residents’ views.
More than 7,000 people had their say during the far-reaching consultation which asked for views on proposed changes including transferring 20 libraries out of a total of 45 to community management.
Other proposals included in the draft report included a reduction in weekly opening hours across the library service, a reduction in the materials fund (books, eBooks, eMagazines, eAudio, online resources including newspapers), considering the future implementation of Smart libraries, transferring the mobile library service to community management and stopping the DVD hire service.
As well as an online and paper copy questionnaire, 49 drop-in sessions were held at libraries so people could talk about the plans face-to-face with staff, and 21 in-depth focus groups were held in all areas where the local library was proposed to be a community managed library (CML), as well as a focus group about the mobile service.
Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis also held a public question and answer session at Chesterfield Library where people could quiz him directly about the plans.
More people took part in the consultation than any single consultation held by the county council before.
All the views were taken in to consideration before the report, which will be considered by the council’s Cabinet next Thursday (20 Dec), was drafted.
A number of changes have been made to the draft proposals to reflect views given during the consultation.
Those changes, which are now incorporated in to the report to be considered, include:
- Supporting groups running community managed libraries (CMLs) with five years of grant funding, rather than four
- Making £50,000 available to pay for independent support for CMLs
- Seeking help from Locality (a national network supporting community organisations) to support CMLs
- Giving more support and assistance in the financial processes of running a CML for the first two years
- Managing the transition to a CML, with council staff support for the first two years
- Helping with recruiting and training volunteers, and developing eLearning packages
- Ensuring the council includes support for CMLs in any new staffing structure
- Trialling the Smart library idea before any implementation
- Keeping the existing DVD stock and loaning them free of charge until March 2021.
Councillor Lewis, who is also the Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism, said:
“Since we launched the consultation in to the proposed changes I’ve made it very clear that the council is committed to the library service and no libraries will close on my watch.
“The response to the consultation was excellent and we received thousands of responses with some interesting views and ideas.
“We listened to what people had to say and have changed a number of elements of the report to reflect what people told us.
“We believe these proposals are the best way forward to secure the future of our libraries.
“A lack of support for the proposals could lead to consultations on further reductions to opening hours and the materials fund, other than those outlined in the report. This is something people made clear they did not want.”
If the proposals are agreed at next Thursday’s meeting, a drive to recruit interested groups to run one or more CML will be launched in the new year.
More information on the Derbyshire Public Library Strategy `Libraries for Derbyshire’ is available.