Posted: Monday 13th November 2017
Plans for chapter two of our Inspiring Libraries strategy were given the thumbs up by councillors today. ‘Inspiring Libraries – the next phase’ sets out our ambitions and priorities for Hertfordshire libraries for 2018 - 2021, building on the achievements from the original strategy that was launched in 2014.
Since then we have made savings totalling more than £2million, while at the same time improving our library buildings, including brand new libraries in Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted and major improvements at Watford, Watford North, and Abbots Langley Libraries. We have successfully introduced five volunteer-partnered community libraries across the county and embraced technology, with new CreatorSpaces at Watford and Hemel Hempstead libraries, and self-service Wi-Fi printing. Additionally we’ve improved our digital library, giving residents the chance to access eBooks and magazines, and a whole host of library services from the comfort of their own homes or on the move, via our library app.
Looking ahead to the next phase, we want to continue to improve library buildings, develop our online offer, improve and extend access to libraries – through swipe card access and by using volunteers to extend opening times - and complete our roll-out of community libraries.
The strategy also sets out a proposal for delivering the library service in a different way, which could contribute savings to the ongoing pressures on the County Council budget. This idea is supported by national government and is already in place in a number of other local authorities, including Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and Devon. Each of these areas has a slightly different approach, but all are based on a ‘public service mutual’ model, where an independent organisation – a social enterprise, charity or co-operative is created to deliver library services on behalf of the council. This would achieve an immediate saving in non-domestic rates, and may enable the service to access grants and other sources of funding that would not be available to the county council.
A detailed analysis of whether this approach would work for Hertfordshire will take place over the next few months, including the opportunity for library users, residents and other interested parties to share their views, and findings will be presented to members next year.
Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Libraries, said:
“When we launched the original strategy our aim was to create a modern library service at the very heart of local communities. We’ve made good progress over the past three years, but there’s still more work to do.
“The financial challenges are still significant, which is the why we are considering different options to help us meet our £500,000 savings target and we will continue to keep library users up to date, as our plans develop over the coming months.”