The Somerset Libraries redesign report published earlier this week recommends Somerset County Council continues to run a library building in Shepton Mallet, but its exact location is still to be decided.
The existing library building provides limited opportunities to improve the current library service (for example, increasing opening hours) and doesn’t represent good value for money for the Somerset taxpayer.
Feedback from the library consultation, which ran earlier this year, shows local people would prefer to keep a library building as close to the town centre as possible. After considering this feedback and the issues with the current site, Somerset County Council acknowledges that a decision needs to be made on the future location of the library.
The County Council is encouraged by Shepton Mallet Town Council’s suggestions of possible alternatives for the central location of a library building and wants to give further consideration to these proposals. The report published on Tuesday therefore recommends that the decision on where to relocate Shepton Mallet library is made next year.
Further work will be done to explore relocating the library to either an alternative town centre/community hub location or to Shape Mendip. An appraisal of both options will be completed, and consideration will be given to the feedback received locally from the consultation.
Cllr David Hall, Cabinet Member with responsibilities for libraries at Somerset County Council said: “We’ve listened to the local people of Shepton Mallet who said they want to keep a library as close to the town centre as possible. A proposal for an alternative site has been put forward by the Town Council and in order for us to carefully and thoroughly consider all options, we are recommending we make a decision on where to relocate Shepton Mallet library next year.”
Cllr Hall continued: “We are committed to delivering a strong, thriving, modernised library service in Shepton Mallet, but it need to be sustainable – both financially as well as able to meet local need for generations to come. We are looking forward to working with Shepton Mallet Town Council, Friends of Shepton Mallet Library, and Mendip District Council to develop an alternative town centre option.”
Chris Inchley, Chair of Shepton Mallet Town Council said: “It is clear that Shepton Mallet residents want a library in the centre of our town, and Shepton Mallet Town Council has made a strong commitment to ensuring that happens. We want to explore all opportunities to offer greater opening times and the delivery of additional services.
“The Town Council is pleased to be working with the County Council to explore all options to achieve the library service our residents want, in the location they want it. I would like to thank everyone who has lobbied the County Council; people power has made it clear that the library should stay in the heart of Shepton – now we have to deliver that.”
Steve Barlow, Chair of Friends of Shepton Mallet Library said: “Friends of Shepton Mallet Library welcome the fact that officers of the Library Service have listened to residents’ concerns. We are happy to work with them to find a sustainable future for the Library in the town centre and urge County Councillors to adopt their recommendations in full.”
Cllr John Parham, Portfolio Holder for Finance, Governance and Corporate Services at Mendip District Council said: “Mendip welcomes this news and in our consultation response to Somerset County Council we advocated for a library being maintained in Shepton Mallet town centre and are pleased with the outcome and that all options are being explored. Mendip will do everything to ensure that a library is maintained in Shepton Mallet and we look forward to working with Somerset County Council and Shepton Mallet Town Council moving forward.”
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Notes to Editors
• Library usage of the current library in Shepton Mallet isn’t as high as in comparable communities, and the current site is expensive compared to other libraries.
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