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County council to review Staffordshire libraries

Stone library in Market Square

Staffordshire County Council is about to review its library service across the county.

It says it will be consulting with users over the next few months before its proposals go out to public consultation in the spring. It is not yet known how the council will be getting the views of library users in Stone, but we’ll share details as soon as we have them.

A press release issued by the county council on 15th January highlights the decline in visits to libraries in Staffordshire over the last 12 months, and an associated fall in the issue of books. The release also highlights the huge growth of “e-books downloads and online visits”.

Here is the press release in full from the county council…

Residents asked to shape Staffordshire’s libraries for the future

Library users will help re-shape Staffordshire’s library service so that it adapts to what people want in the future.

At a meeting on 15th January, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet approved the start of a consultation that will look at how libraries are currently used, and what local people and community groups want from them in the years ahead.

The county council will start talking with groups and partners who use Staffordshire’s libraries, to draw up proposals for the future of the service. The results and proposals will then go out to county-wide public consultation in the spring.

During today’s meeting Cabinet members discussed how the library service of the future will include a much larger online offer, in recognition that providing services from buildings is not always the best way to do things or to reach all residents. The review will also look for innovative new ways of providing library services to make sure the county council delivers real value for money to taxpayers, and spends every penny as effectively as possible.

Discussions with stakeholders and partners is planned to take place between January and April, to explore in depth how libraries are currently used and what demand exists for current and future services. The feedback will be used to create a new model for Staffordshire’s Library Service.

Michael Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Communities and Localism on Staffordshire County Council, said: “We want to hear from everyone who uses our libraries to find out what they value about them, and how they need to adapt in future to meet people’s needs.

“Today’s libraries are radically different from 20 years – just look at the impact of IT and the internet on how we get hold of the information we need – and the service needs to keep evolving to keep pace with the changing way that people live their lives.

“Between now and April we will be looking at what residents and organisations want from their libraries and how they are used across the county to ensure that we get the right offer for local people.”

Libraries have changed significantly in recent years offering more computers, internet access and wifi, and digital services such as e-books and e-magazines, alongside valuable community space. In contrast, the number of people visiting their library and the number of books being borrowed have been declining in recent years.

Countywide, visits to libraries have declined by almost 12% over the last three years, and issues of books have reduced by 19%. The biggest drop occurred last year, when issues decreased by 12%, and the drop is expected to be even greater this year.

During 2012/13 the total number of visits to a Staffordshire library was 3,961,830. There were also 951,796 virtual visits to the service in 2012/13 – which include e-books downloads, and online visits. Loan of e-books has more than doubled with 5,371 e-books downloaded in 11/12 increasing to 12,871 e-books downloaded in 12/13, and the expectation is that this pattern will continue again this year.

Staffordshire’s Library Service currently has 43 building-based libraries, six mobile libraries and two travelling libraries. There are also seven prison libraries and a schools library service, but they will not form part of the review.

More details are available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/libraries

3 comments

  1. As a newly arrived resident of Staffordshire I really welcome the commitment the County Council is making to modernisation of its library service. Since taking control of the council in May 2009, the county council has kept all its 43 libraries open at a time when some county councils are closing libraries. It remains the case that libraries are changing and there is a lot to be gained from looking at best practice elsewhere and at transforming libraries into community hubs with perhaps shared space with other statutory authorities

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