Libraries for the future

Residents are being asked for their views on plans that would make sure Somerset’s library service is fit for the future.

The proposals show the Council’s commitment to doing everything it can to keep all of the county’s 34 libraries open, while making much needed financial savings, at a time when the authority’s finances are under considerable pressure.

The plans could see libraries forming part of ‘hubs’ in key towns across the county, which will bring several public services together under one roof.

The new hubs will provide modern, flexible spaces to meet local community needs. The first hub will open in Glastonbury in autumn 2016, with services including the library, children’s centre, Citizens Advice, registration services and Mendip District Council.

While not all areas will be suitable for hubs, the Council aims to work with local communities to develop approaches reflecting local need and demand, such as plans being developed with Martock Parish Council for Martock library.

The plans will bring changes to library opening hours. For most libraries, opening hours will be reduced, delivering savings equivalent to the cost of running the county’s ten smallest libraries. The opening hours of some libraries will remain the same or be open for longer, especially where they form part of hubs. Self-service technology could also be trialled, allowing people to access the library outside staffed times.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Libraries, said: “We know how important the library service is to people across Somerset, so we have set out how we will do everything we can to make the service more sustainable and fit for purpose in the modern age. We know that there is no one size fits all solution. For each hub we will work with local partners to find solutions that work for the local community.”

Work is currently underway to gather feedback from residents about the proposed hubs and changes to the library service, including how and when people access library services and how the service could better meet resident’s needs in the future. If you would like to read more about this and share your views, please go to http://www.somerset.gov.uk/hubsandlibraries

As part of a council-wide freeze on non-essential spending introduced last month, Somerset’s libraries will not be stocking national newspapers from the beginning of January until the end of March, 2016. This temporary measure will save the authority around £4,000 and help balance the Council’s budget and reduce a projected overspend this financial year.

The usual range of local titles will be on hand and full text articles from the national press are available online, free of charge, through the People’s Network computers in all libraries.