Libraries' hours could be extended under new plans

A 12-week consultation to consider how to run Staffordshire's library service over the next three years will be launched in the New Year.

Stafford Library
Stafford Library

Ideas include using technology to extend opening hours with an automated service, increasing the number of community-managed libraries and reviewing how the mobile and travelling service is used.

The consultation was approved at yesterday's(WED) county council cabinet meeting.

Gill Heath, cabinet member for communities, said: “We’re committed to keeping our libraries open and flexible to meet the changing needs of residents."

Under the ‘extended hours’ idea, libraries would still be staffed for a core period during the day but after a face-to-face training session registered users could also access the building during certain periods outside those hours, such as from 8am to 10am and from 5pm to 8pm.

No library would be completely self-service and the option does not apply to community managed libraries.

Councillor Heath said: “The technology for extended opening has already been working successfully in many urban and rural areas without any problems.

“Residents in places like Peterborough and Brighton have embraced the flexibility on offer to and it’s been a positive experience for users, not only to borrow books, but, for example, to use the PCs and print out work.”

The cabinet heard that the library service has evolved considerably over the last decade as it moves with users’ changing habits.

Since 2014, after several rounds of public consultation, 23 of the county’s 43 libraries have been transferred, or are in the process of being transferred, to community groups which take over the management and day-to-day running of the building, while the council remains responsible for agreed utility and costs.

With the equivalent of 160 full-time staff and almost 800 volunteers, the county runs 43 fixed libraries, seven prison libraries, a schools' service and two mobile libraries, plus a larger travelling library and digital service.

Ms Heath said: “We’re due to open two new libraries in the next few months and we are committed to running a flexible service which keeps the library at the heart of the community it serves.”

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