As North Yorkshire libraries progress towards the introduction of a model that will see all libraries supported or run by volunteers to maintain and develop the service, North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive is being asked to approve an investment fund totalling £350,000 to help libraries meet their modern role.
The one-off investment would be available to libraries across the county for minor improvements, furniture and fittings to help to give them the flexibility needed to deliver the widening range of services now being offered by libraries.
In April next year, 20 more libraries run directly by communities will join the ten existing community libraries, while the 12 libraries remaining under County Council management will require varying levels of volunteer support to maintain their current levels of service.
The changes result from cuts in government funding that require the County Council to have saved £174m by the end of the decade. The library service will have seen its budget reduced from £7.8m in 2010 to £4.3m in 2017/18.
The Executive will be asked to approve the one-off £350,000 investment when members meet on Tuesday, 6 December.
County councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Library and Information Services, said:
“The move to community-run and supported libraries is a genuine partnership between the County Council and the many residents who are investing their time, effort and expertise. We have seen a tremendous response from communities, and, while we need to make savings, we are committed to continued investment in the county’s excellent library service.
“This investment is important to ensure that libraries remain vibrant, attractive places that are inviting and a pleasure to visit for people in the communities they serve. This will help to provide communities with buildings that as well as offering library services also present an adaptable space to enable communities to provide services they need on their doorstep.
“We want the service to continue to develop and find new ways of increasing access to council and other services within communities. Libraries are often the first point of contact for people wanting face-to-face advice about using council services, particularly online. At present, the interiors of many libraries are outdated and not sufficiently suited to modern needs.
“Libraries need to have flexible layouts, space that can be put to multiple uses and accessible technology, as well as signposting that reflects what can be found at the library. This proposed investment in library buildings would show that the County Council recognises the future role of libraries within their communities and that they are seen as important assets worthy of continued investment.”
The proposed investment includes a community library fund of £120,000 from which library groups could bid for money for improvements including minor repairs, new furniture and equipment, including IT. This equates to £4,000 for each of the 30 community libraries.
There would also be £189,500 for improvements to the 12 county council-managed libraries. This would include furniture and minor repairs, such as mobile shelving, carpets and decoration, equipment to improve facilities for video conferencing, internet access and use of mobile devices, and adaptations to create an interview and meeting space at Malton.
Finally, £40,000 would be available to replace signage and information to reflect the partnership with communities and the new nature of the services provided.
Most community library groups are now in detailed negotiations about the handover to the community in April. It is expected that the remaining groups will reach this stage in December. Existing community libraries have been supporting the new groups by hosting information days and visits or responding to queries.
Across the county, libraries are recruiting volunteers to help with a variety of duties, from running children’s story time sessions to helping customers and organising books. Many have held successful recruitment events and more events are planned during December and January, along with a volunteer training programme. Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering can also do so on the council’s website, www.northyorks.gov.uk/libraryvolunteers.