Libraries set to deliver more at the heart of communities

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People won’t have far to go to access a whole range of tailored services under a new set of proposals to transform libraries.

The plans, to be discussed at the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee meeting next week, will put the county’s 32 libraries and three mobile library vans, which stop at 200 places throughout the county, at the very heart of local communities.

It will mean that children and family services, public health and district council services will be tailored and relevant for every resident throughout the county and available on their door step.

If agreed, these changes will reinforce libraries as the ‘front door’ of the council, offering a better and wider range of services. For the people of Cambridgeshire this will mean more reasons for them to use their local library with an improved access to more services under one roof, more help and support when they need it and new ways to get involved. It will also help the council meet its priorities around keeping vulnerable and elderly people more independent through early help and prevention.

By working with the Council’s People & Communities Directorate and other partner organisations, this new way of working will first focus on Assistive Technology being rolled out to vulnerable people who require support to remain independent in their own homes for longer. It will be piloted at Soham Library which already provides support to vulnerable people.

Through a range of initiatives libraries are set to generate new revenue and progress towards becoming more financially self-sufficient. This will allow the council to invest £230,000 back into the book fund in 2018/19 so stock remains relevant and up-to-date.

Key recommendations to generate more income include a special membership, paid-for events such as author talks, maximising the use of library meeting rooms and everyone will continue to have free access to complete essential forms online but after the first half an hour, a £1 per hour charge will be introduced.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Chair of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Mathew Shuter said: “We understand the value of the core library service and are fiercely protective of our trusted library ‘brand’. Libraries transform lives and they are one of the strongest assets in our communities.We’re excited about these proposals as we hope it will encourage people to use their library to the full, by investing back in the book fund and offering a better service overall.  

“This is the start of a journey, we want to see libraries for what they can do for and with people and build on this to make them financially self-sufficient and always relevant to the changing needs of our residents. We are looking forward to continuing the conversation with staff and customers as the library service continues to change and innovate over the next year.”

The proposals follow a series of engagement events where people were positive about the service charging for activities and services it already provides. Expanding the role of the Mobile Library Service will also be explored.

These improvements would mark the start of a long-term transformation of the Library Service, ensuring that it continues to change, innovate and thrive in the future. They are supported by the national policy , which sets out the Government’s ambition for public libraries for the future.