Towns’ libraries to stay on Council’s books
Stone and Eccleshall’s libraries are both safe – for now. Neither of them will be affected by County Council plans to transfer the management and staffing of 20 of its 43 libraries to local communities later this year.
In places such as Blythe Bridge and Loggerheads, parish councils, community groups and voluntary organisations have been formally invited to bid between now and the end of July to manage and deliver their library.
The step is part of the county council’s long term plan to re-energise its library service after years of declining use.
Mike Lawrence, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Libraries, said:
“Part of the consultation process is to understand each group’s strengths and how their ideas will lead to a library which will be responsive to the needs of the local community.”
“Each community group will remain connected to the County library service and have access to support and help over the coming years.”
Some community groups will take responsibility for managing and delivering their local library service as soon as they have satisfied the necessary conditions.
Others will go to a transitional stage where volunteers staff the library on a day-to-day basis and the library will be part of a cluster which will have support from a member of library staff.
Mike Lawrence said:
“This is a two-speed approach to letting communities take over their libraries. We’re looking forwards to working closely with the ones that already have the ideas and enthusiasm to start at once, while we’ll help other groups develop the confidence they need.”
Assessment of the applications will begin in August, with recommendations made in September and the first groups taking charge of their libraries soon after.
The transition to community management comes after the Council held three consultations in 2014 on proposals to reshape the service: two with the public and one with library staff.
Only 15% of Staffordshire’s population are active borrowers and library visits have declined almost 12% over the last three years. But though issues of physical books are down by 19%, online loans have doubled in the last 12 months.
The projected cost saving is £1.3 million over three years, equal to 5% of the libraries’ budget.