Council responds to library views

PUBLISHED: 17:29 28 March 2012

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A CONSULTATION on proposed changes to library services has prompted North Somerset Council to revise its plans.

In January, the authority announced proposals to reduce the opening hours of many libraries to save £347,000 over three years.

The plans included shutting some facilities during lunchtimes and reducing the opening hours across the district overall by 21 per week.

However, following a two-month consultation which yielded 1,960 responses, the authority has balanced the books while increasing the proposed opening times to just one hour less than the current situation. This includes scrapping proposals for lunchtime closures in Worle.

The budget savings will be made by cutting staff numbers, which has already begun by not filling vacant positions. It is hoped some staff may take voluntary redundancy or be deployed elsewhere.

The way people use library services has changed quite rapidly, with many making reservations online, reducing the need for high staff numbers.

To enable the libraries to continue operating, self-service machines will be installed at most facilities in time for the proposals to be implemented on September 3. This excludes Winscombe where the library building cannot cater for these machines.

At Weston’s library in Boulevard, which is due to relocate to the town hall later this year, machines have been set up to allow users to get used to them in preparation for the move.

The council also hopes communities will get involved in helping to run libraries voluntarily. It has already held initial talks with parish councils in Winscombe and Yatton. In Congresbury, volunteers already help to run the village facility.

Executive member with responsibility for libraries, Councillor Felicity Baker, said: “We have listened to comments and where possible matched proposals more closely to them.

“We are pleased several parish councils and communities have approached us about volunteering networks to support and enhance the new opening arrangements.”

Before the consultation, the council proposed reducing the opening hours at the Healthy Living Centre on the Bournville estate from 45 to 36 per week. This has been revised to 41 during term time and 36 in school holidays.

In Worle, plans to reduce the hours from 39 to 33.5 have been revised up to 36 but, in Winscombe, proposals to reduce the hours from 24.5 to 19 have remained.

Congresbury Library will remain at 15 hours per week and, in Yatton, plans to reduce the hours from 42 to 34, have been revised to 33 hours.

At The Campus in Locking Castle, proposals to increase opening hours from 41 to 67 per week remain and at Weston’s new Town Hall library the hours will increase to 57 from the 50 at the current location.

The introduction of extra hours at these two facilities, including on Saturdays and Sundays, are at no extra cost to the council as they are based at multi-use sites where other staff are present, meaning they can remain open for self-service use.

* For more details about the review and proposed changes visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/libraryreview2012

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