How much money is the County Council hoping to save by making these changes to libraries?
Around £800K, this is included in the current Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP). These aren't new savings and were agreed as part of the budget setting cycle in 2017/18
What are the estimated savings, year on year?
The Current MTFP states savings of £500,000 in 2019/20 and £300,000 in 2020/21. We expect this to change so that more savings are identified for 2020/21 and less for 2019/20 This is more in line with the plans we will put in place for carrying out proposed changes.
Is the County Council looking to close any libraries under these plans? If so, which ones in particular and why those specific ones?
There are no plans to close specific libraries at this stage.
The Cabinet paper sets out a number of recommendations including prioritising resources on libraries that have the greatest aggregate need (deprivation, home site usage, proximity to other libraries and usage levels). With reduced resources we will be looking to identify local solutions, working with the community and partners, to sustain library provision in libraries ranked with lower 'need'.
If we are unable to find or implement local solutions then closure remains an option as a last resort.
Will people lose their jobs? If so how many is the estimate?
We expect changes in libraries to reduce the number of frontline staff and management posts that we will require in the future. The level of that reduction will depend on the extent to which new solutions are identified which can generate income and reduce non-staff costs. To minimise staff redundancies we have frozen permanent recruitment of library staff since May 2018 so that we will be in a position to delete vacant posts before making any redundancies. We currently have over 20 vacant posts across libraries. We expect this number to increase by summer 2019 when work will commence to implement the final decision on libraries.
Will these changes mean libraries will be stocking fewer books? Or running fewer services/events?
Recent feedback from library engagement has highlighted the importance of a free book lending service for residents. There are no plans to reduce the budget for book stock or other Audio Visual and digital content as part of libraries transformation plans. If we are successful in introducing new community run libraries, our recommendation is that the Council will continue to provide books for those libraries.
Although services are likely to be affected by the proposed changes (a reduction in the amount of face-to-face support for customers is likely) Worcestershire will continue to offer a comprehensive range of library services. These services will be designed to meet national library outcomes which build community resilience and meet residents' needs. The range of services on offer will vary from library to library – as it does now - but we expect that all library service points will deliver at least a minimum service offer:
- Safe & welcoming community space
- Free fiction and non-fiction book lending collection
- Free reference material (hardcopy and online)
- Free computer, internet and Wi-Fi access
- Signposting to information sources and services
- Access to web-based digital library services
- Volunteering opportunities
Will The Hive be affected by the current proposals?
The Hive is iconic and our flagship library. It remains the only joint public and university library in the country. There are currently no plans to change the provision at the Hive –but we will continue to work closely with the university and other partners to help find ways to use the space more effectively.
Is the County Council looking to pull out of The Hive altogether and allow the university to run it by themselves?
No, there are no plans to do this.
Will library opening hours be reduced? If so is there any more detail – e.g. which libraries, by how many hours?
Reducing opening hours has been identified as one of the options that will be put forward for public and stakeholder consultation. If a new community library is identified there may be a need for flexibility in identifying the number of opening hours that community groups are able to support using volunteers.
If Open Library technology is introduced there is potential to increase the number of hours that a library is open to the public, although some of those hours will be unstaffed.
Have any community groups shown an interest in helping to run libraries? If so which libraries in particular?
We already run successful community supported libraries in Hagley, Broadway, Upton, Pershore and Catshill and around 400 volunteers kindly gift their time for the library service each year. We are hoping that engagement with residents and stakeholders will identify potential new community partners who we can work with to set up new community libraries.
Will community groups who agree to run libraries have their own budgets or will the County Council continue to manage the budget?
As part of the libraries consultation we will seek feedback from residents and community stakeholders and partners on the preferred model for running community libraries.
Will libraries that are community run be run completely by volunteers instead of paid workers?
We will seek feedback during consultation on the preferred model for community libraries. Options will include continued support from the County Council library service.
How does the County Council expect older library customers to use technology used in Open Libraries? Will any training be given?
The technology that supports Open Libraries is comprised of an entry control system to manage access to a library building, full coverage CCTV and a PA system. Access to Open Libraries, if implemented, would be managed through an additional Open Library membership scheme and any new member would receive full induction and training.
Will these libraries be completely unstaffed or will someone be on hand in case there is an issue?
We do not anticipate that any library would be unstaffed at all times and we will seek feedback during consultation to help us determine the preferred model for Open Library implementation.
Do you expect visitor numbers to increase/decrease when changes are made next year?
Our main aim is to identify solutions that will sustain Worcestershire's libraries and keep all of our libraries open for the benefit of local communities. But we recognise that there is a risk of reduced participation in the service, depending on final recommendations. We want to get communities involved far more so that library usage continues or even in some instances, increases.
Is the Council looking to share library space with other organisations such as the Job Centre/housing organisations? If so, any definite plans as yet?
Yes, but there are no firm plans at this stage. We will pro-actively engage with partners throughout the consultation period and beyond. There are already libraries in Worcestershire that share space with Job Centre Plus so we know that this works.
Who makes the final decision on these proposals?
This will be a political decision made by the lead cabinet member in spring 2019.
Will the proposals change, depending on the findings from consultation with staff and the public or has the decision effectively already been made?
Yes – The proposals we have set out our initial suggestions, and could change based on the feedback from the consultation.
Is the County Council looking to stop the mobile library service? If so what will happen for people living in villages? Where will they access books?
No – previous remodelling phases have already reduced the mobile service. However, it is good practice to regularly review the routes and use of the service to ensure it remains effective.
Are these cuts linked to the wider savings the County Council announced a few weeks ago?
These are not new savings, so will not contribute towards reducing the financial pressures identified recently. However, not achieving the savings identified in the MTFP will increase the financial pressure on the County Council.
How does the County Council think these changes are going to affect vulnerable groups such as the elderly who access library services on a daily basis?
Consultation feedback from more vulnerable groups will inform a full Equality Impact Assessment and Public Health Assessment of library changes, which will be used to inform the final decision.