Next Wednesday, Council Cabinet will consider a report which proposes a range of changes to the way Derby City Council’s library service is managed.
We know how important our libraries are to the areas they serve. They are places where residents can access a range of services, and also somewhere people can feel part of their communities.
We also recognise that any changes to the way our libraries are run could make people feel some anxiety. I’d like to take the opportunity to reassure residents across the city that we aim to continue to provide them access to a quality library service in the years ahead.
Over the last two years we have undertaken a robust and transparent review to determine the best way to deliver a sustainable and modern library service, given the significant financial challenges still faced by the Council.
In that time, more than 4,000 people have taken part in the consultation exercise, many of whom have provided extensive feedback on how they think our libraries should operate in the coming years. We’ve listened to their views and taken on board suggestions to ensure that the proposals presented to Council Cabinet offer both a comprehensive and efficient service as well as a sustainable future for our libraries service.
A key part of the consultation was exploring the feasibility of Community Managed Libraries. Subject to the Cabinet decision, this option could mean volunteers getting involved in some areas to run their local library, with the support of grant funding from the Council. This is a model that has proved successful in other areas of the country and could represent a great opportunity for communities to take ownership, get involved and re-energise their local libraries to meet the needs of the community.
As part of the consultation, we’ve had more than 1,000 people express an interest in becoming a volunteer, showing a clear appetite for community management. The evidence we’ve collected has shown that placing libraries in the hands of their communities can cater to local needs. With such an extensive level of engagement, we are confident in our aim that no local library will be forced to close as a result of these proposals.
Thanks to the consultation feedback we received, the option that is being recommended to my fellow Cabinet Members now includes five libraries that will remain directly run by the Council, including Alvaston, Pear Tree and Mickleover. The methodology used has taken into account current library usage, location and socio-economic deprivation.
What is more, subject to the approval of the recommendations, we will be increasing the shelf capacity at these community libraries in order to offer access to many of the books that would be displaced as a result of moving city-centre lending services.
As part of the Council’s plan to bring more services under one roof, our proposals include creating a new Riverside Library in the Council House. The plan, which is set to save approximately £128,000 per year, would lead to the relocation of the Central Library.
I know that many people are concerned at what will happen to this historic building. The Central Library was donated by Michael Thomas Bass to the city in 1879, so we believe it’s important that it remains accessible to the public if the decision is taken to move the Central Library.
I am delighted to announce that the Derby Museums Trust have confirmed ambitious plans which could serve the city for years to come, should the recommendations for our library service be approved at Council Cabinet next week. Initially, they plan to display more elements of their extensive collections and use the space to host a range of events. In the longer term, the Trust has expressed their ambition to refurbish the building to create a Museum of Arts and Science inspired by Joseph Wright.
We believe the proposals for a new vision for the library service represent a sustainable future for Derby’s libraries . Subject to Cabinet approval, they could ensure extended opening hours at Council-run libraries, a modern and fit-for-purpose lending service in the city-centre and an extensive package of support through a newly created Community Library Development team.
We have taken our time to consider the responses we received from the public consultation and have put together proposals based on the options that gained the most public support. We want to get this right, so it’s vital that we take the appropriate time to reach the right decision.
Following the Cabinet meeting next week, there will no doubt be those who suggest these changes are unnecessary, but we need to transform our much loved services, if we want to deliver a modern library service that serves future generations. I would urge readers to take the time to look through the supporting documents in detail and reach their own conclusions.
These proposals can only work with the support of local people – I have every confidence in our communities to get involved, to make a difference and to make our libraries a success.