Sandwell libraries among best in country

An army of volunteers and a packed programme of activities have put Sandwell libraries among the best in the country, according to recent figures.

Sandwell libraries among best in country

The borough came third out of 36 metropolitan authorities for the number of books borrowed and, with more than 1.7 million people through the doors, it had the fourth highest number of visits.

Figures for 2015-16 released by the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy also show Sandwell had the fifth highest use of computers and was the tenth highest for inquiries.

It had the second highest number of volunteers after recording 16,820 volunteer hours during the year.

Councillor Richard Marshall, cabinet member for leisure, said: "These are excellent results thanks to our dedicated staff and volunteers who, despite facing a tough budget resulting from central government cuts, are providing an excellent service to our residents.

"Figures show that more than a million books were borrowed by Sandwell residents and visitors spent more than 216,000 hours on library computers.

"Our staff and volunteers work hard at providing a packed programme of activities at our libraries making them active community hubs and, unlike other boroughs, we aren't cutting opening hours or closing libraries, in fact we are encouraging their use as can be seen by these figures."

The good news follows the council's decision to slash opening hours at more than a dozen libraries across the borough to save the council £700,000.

Every library in the borough besides Central Library in West Bromwich is affected. Hours were also reduced at the Community History and Archive service in Smethwick.

A total of 19 libraries have been hit by the move, with the revised hours dependent on how busy branches are during the day.

From January last year, libraries lost around three hours a day on average but the council hopes use of the libraries can continue to rise in the future.

Dr Terry Daniels, who is chairman of the Friends of Sandwell Archives group, previously called the reduction in hours a 'shame' but said it would help safeguard the service.

Sandwell Library Service has lots of different roles for volunteers, from helping people to use computers, running knit-and-natter sessions, to helping run a café.

All libraries have friends groups, who are always looking for new members. Anyone looking to volunteer or join can ask at a local library or fill in the form on sandwell.gov.uk/libraries.

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