All of the Royal Borough’s permanent library buildings are to remain open after a successful public consultation helped to identify opportunities to deliver services in partnership with communities.
The new plan will see the council working with parish councils, community groups, trusts and volunteers to deliver the popular service in a more resilient and sustainable way for the benefit of all residents.
The original proposals included potential closures, but the consultation made clear how much residents value the service and brought forward exciting and innovative solutions for keeping open all libraries in collaboration with the community.
Alternative income streams have been explored and sustainable funding options identified. Implementation will commence in October 2021 with the aim to be fully operational by April 2022.
The new approach includes a Select and Deliver Service/Home Library Service supported by the recruitment of 50 extra volunteers, which will replace the mobile library vehicle, and an expanded Accessibility Service to increase support to people with disabilities, in particular autism, dementia, and other hidden disabilities.
Almost 100 extra opening hours per week than originally proposed have been put forward, with the recommended opening hours subject to finalisation of agreements with community partners.
The container library will be now be retained in Wraysbury. The Select and Deliver Service will serve the communities which the Mobile Library will no longer visit while we continue to explore options for those previously served by the Container Library.
Councillor Samantha Rayner, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for corporate and resident services, culture and heritage, said: “The consultation made clear how highly regarded our library service is in the community and crucially helped to stimulate valuable, constructive discussions around alternative solutions.
“Through engaging with the community, together we have found creative, transformative, innovative solutions to continue delivering this popular service in a more financially viable way and, crucially, to keep open all libraries.
“Significant changes were made to the final recommendations which will see the council working in partnership with parish councils and community organisations to deliver the library service and I’m grateful for this support.
“Residents will continue to benefit from a comprehensive and efficient library service that meets their needs, drives aspiration and remains accessible to all, including the most vulnerable.
“The revised recommendations and decision by Cabinet to retain a strong physical library provision, as well as enhance our digital offer, makes that clear.”
The 12-week consultation on the Library Transformation Strategy included 38 engagement sessions, including public sessions and those with parish councils, trustees and other stakeholders. More than 1,000 responses were received. A comprehensive needs analysis was also undertaken to help inform the final recommendations.
Councillor Rayner added: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation. The council values and takes seriously the input from our residents - your views really do help shape how we deliver services. We want to hear what you think, and we do care.”
“I’d particularly like to pay tribute to our library staff and volunteers – we have more than 100 volunteers who, together with the staff, form the lifeblood of our service. The willingness of residents to support library services is very encouraging and I, along with your respective communities, thank you.”
Cabinet agreed to adopt the Library Transformation Strategy at a meeting on Thursday 24 June. The strategy will run through to 2025.