Emerging library vision revealed as part of review

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AN emerging vision to design a twenty first century library service to suit the varied needs of communities has been unveiled by Cambridgeshire County Councillor David Harty.

Plans are being drawn up for September but are expected to include a mixture of ideas put forward at the start and during the review as well as a package of new suggestions.

It is proposed that no community will lose access to library services but changes may be made in the way they are currently delivered. Some communities may even get better access than they currently have.

Ideas such as shared services across Councils, use of volunteers, staff restructuring and self service will continue to go forward.

The Council will also look at whether other council services and even local business or community facilities such as Post Offices could share buildings making them real community hubs.

Moving to shared premises has the potential of saving the council money from its overall budget as well as joining up services and creating income.

This could also give the potential of putting library services in places that currently don’t have them.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor David Harty, Cabinet Member for Learning and Libraries, said: “As a new leadership team we are taking an overall approach to how we are delivering services which will allow us to make savings rather than the old fashioned local Government way of thinking in silos. The old ways of looking at budget lines and services on their own is not our way.

We need new joined up thinking for a new joined up Cambridgeshire and are working towards that.

Like our communities we want to protect and join up services. They want them to suit their lifestyles and they want them fit for the twenty first century. We intend to look through our community’s eyes to make these changes.

Our ideas will mean services in the future will be accessed by communities in more places, at more times and in more ways. We will create true community hubs. Every community will continue to have access to library services. We will work with individual communities to design with them and create a truly twenty first century service.

“Our work in the review has shown that residents want to see much more joined up thinking and not to travel long distances between different services if they can all be delivered from one place. We are being innovative with services sharing facilities as well as looking in a commercial way at all the possibilities.

“We have already seen Post Office, doctors and other councils share our library facilities and believe this is a model that could be rolled out across Cambridgeshire. But to do this we will be talking to communities to see what they want and how this can be delivered.

“This could mean that services are delivered from completely different or even brand new buildings but this will be decided by residents. Library services will be tailored by local communities for their own needs.

“Borrowing ideas from the commercial sector the council will also look at different sized libraries to suit community needs. This will be much like major High Street retailers who have a range of stores depending on the communities they are serving.

“We are also looking at new dynamic ways of delivering services such as more online or e-books that are downloadable or could be rented.

“We have also looked at what is happening in the US and Australia with ideas such as book vending machines that could be used in places such as stations.

“As we planned we will be working up the details for September but this emerging vision aims to reassure residents they will continue to have access to library and other council services as part of community hubs.”

Government has just started a consultation on the way councils are financed, including the collection of non-domestic business rates. The Council is looking at what this means for the plans for a Trust. But clearly if the Government changes means the Trust would not make savings the Council would not pursue it as the business rates would come to the authority.