Express & Star

Mobile library service in Sandwell set to be scaled back

A mobile library service in Sandwell will be cut back as part of £300,000 budget savings.


The provision will be reduced from two vehicles to one from April 1 under proposals which will save the cash-strapped authority £80,000.

The council must save £100m by 2017 and must shave £300,000 off its library budget in 2013/14.

Sandwell's cabinet member for leisure services, Councillor Linda Horton, is recommended to approve the measures during a meeting tomorrow.

A report to Councillor Horton states that Sandwell Library and Information Service operates two mobile libraries – a large mobile serves the public with regularly timetabled stops and a small mobile visits targeted groups and venues alongside delivering to some home library customers.

In November last year a consultation was carried out with existing mobile library customers with the aim of finding out whether people would prefer mobile library stops of the same length but less frequent, or the same frequency of stops but shorter in length.

The results from customers who used the timetables stops showed that 56 per cent preferred frequency and 39 per cent preferred the length of stop, and so the intention is to maintain a fortnightly timetable where possible.

The proposals being put forward have also been discussed with the Federation of Library Friends.

Tomorrow Councillor Horton will be asked to approve that ownership of the large mobile library is transferred to the council's youth service for conversion as a second youth vehicle, but providing flexibility for libraries to deliver mobile library services to schools.

Councillor Horton said: "We have been talking to the Federation of Friends groups all the way through this process.

"We have taken on board the issues that they have talked about and they have said that they would prefer us to reduce library hours than to close libraries, so what we are doing with the mobile library is killing two birds with one stone.

"Although the bus will have a reduced service, it will still serve all the people it is serving now, but it will also help us and the youth service.

"The youth service need another bus, they cannot afford to have one, we need to reduce our costs, so them taking the bus from us and allowing us to part-use it means we will both benefit from it."

So far, savings to library costs have been mainly made through reducing staffing levels – driven largely by the investment in self-service, more efficient timetabling and a leaner management structure.

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