Redcar and Cleveland residents are being asked for their views on the proposed vision for library services in the area.
A 12-week public consultation exercise, which began yesterday will provide residents and library users with the opportunity to express their views on the future of the service.
The Council currently provides a library service in 13 buildings across the borough which are delivered in the form of four community libraries, six library and customer service points and three library and community hubs. All libraries provide a range of books, meeting spaces, computers, printing and WiFi as well as events and activities. There is also a wider digital offer through the virtual library. The service also offers a home delivery service for people who have access problems and who cannot access the library.
A comprehensive review of the service has taken place over last year, including a first phase of public consultation, which helped provide an understanding of how to develop the service and achieve efficiencies. The research found that the way residents use libraries is changing. Over the last five years in Redcar and Cleveland there has been a 57% decline in active library members and a 58% decline in visits to the libraries. There has also been a 49% decline in books issued and a 72% decline in computer use. Digital borrowing continues to grow, and the service has experienced an increase in attendance for events and activities.
The library needs assessment has helped the Council to identify the changing needs of the library offer and how to shape it for the future. The approach has been developed with the evidence across all the strands of the needs assessment in mind, including the public consultation process. The new service is designed around the physical library, digital library, outreach library and a redesigned home delivery service. This includes a new vision and priority focus areas that will feed into developing a new library strategy.
The proposed changes to be consulted on include:
- a new vision and priority focus areas for the service
- due to lack of usage, the Council is proposing to protect the public purse by closing Brotton and Roseberry libraries – both libraries fall into the lowest usage for visitors, book borrowing and computer use. Both are on public transport routes and close to alternative libraries for existing library users;
- enabling Laburnum and Dormanstown libraries to be turned into community run venues – these libraries also have low usage however there is interest in the venues remaining for community use. The Council will look to engage with interested parties as part of the consultation process;
- expanding the lease arrangements of Grangetown library with Grangetown Generations to encompass the whole building. Consultation would take place to explore whether the library offer should be retained. This would still remove the staffing and management of the building, but library book stock would remain, and a self-serve point would stay in place;
- reducing and adapting the opening hours across the eight libraries – Redcar, Guisborough and South Bank from 47hpw to 40hpw. Keep Loftus at 31 hpw. Reduce Skelton, Marske, Ormesby and Saltburn to 26.5hpw.
If approved the proposals would deliver an annual saving of approximately £400,000 from 2024/25.
Urging residents to complete the libraries consultation, Cllr Carrie Richardson, Deputy Leader for the Council and Cabinet Member for Climate and Culture said there has been financial pressures on libraries in recent years due to cuts in Government funding to councils.
“Our libraries are a valued resource at the heart of our communities, and I would encourage residents to let us have their views on the proposals.
“What people want from their library service is changing which makes it important that we have a service fit for the future, ensures value for money and meets the changing needs of our residents.”
Paper copies of the consultation will be available at all libraries across the area. The Council will also hold drop-in sessions in the five most affected libraries. The consultation can also be completed online at https://redcarcleveland.uk.engagementhq.com/libraries-consultation The closing date for responses is 6 February 2024.