We’re proposing to stop delivering a mobile library service, because it’s become very expensive to run and the number of people using it has fallen considerably over the last few years.
Instead, we’d like to promote and extend our existing library services – our Home Library Service, our Good Neighbours service membership and our digital service – to make sure that people still receive a library service at home.
As a council we are facing huge financial challenges, and we will have to make approximately £47.5 million of savings this year.
At the same time, in response to rising demand, we are significantly increasing spending to support vulnerable children, young people and adults.
To ensure that our resources are being used as effectively as possible we are reviewing every service and every area of our work.
And one of those areas is our mobile libraries – we are proposing to end the service, delivered by Libraries Unlimited.
Currently we have four mobile libraries, three of which are 15 years old and at the end of their serviceable lives, and the fourth is nine years old.
All of our aging vehicles have become increasingly expensive to maintain. They are unreliable and have spent a combined 670 hours off the road in the last year, mostly because of mechanical issues.
They are also very expensive to replace – to replace all four with new vehicles would cost between £0.5m and £0.8m – and given our financial situation, this is not something we can afford to do.
And as the costs of the service continue to rise, the use of the mobile service has fallen significantly.
Since 2013 the number of loans from the service has fallen by 68 per cent while the number of visits has fallen by 73 per cent.
We are seeking the views of users on our proposals, and we are asking for suggestions and ideas on how to deliver the service in a different way to ensure that everyone continues to have access to the library service.
We would particularly like to hear from users who, because of health, mobility or caring responsibilities, may be unable to visit one of our libraries to help us better understand the barriers they face and how we can best help them.
The options we are exploring include the current Home Library Service, which delivers books to those who are unable to get to the library. Dedicated volunteers choose and deliver books, including large print and audiobooks, free of charge and often have time to chat.
We are looking at extending the Good Neighbours service. This scheme involves friends, neighbours and family choosing and delivering books to people unable to get to the library.
We also provide an extensive digital service, and we want to make better use of the thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, digital magazines and digital newspapers which are available.
County Councillor Roger Croad said:
“Our financial situation has never been as difficult as it is now. Demand for our vital services is surging and costs are rapidly rising at a time when we have to find millions of pounds of savings from our budget.
“We are spending more than ever before on services to support vulnerable children and adults, but to do this we have to look for savings elsewhere.
“We know these proposals will impact those who use the service, and that is why we are asking service users to help us find ways to ensure that they can continue to have access to library services in the future.
“No decisions will be made until after the eight-week consultation.”