Sandwell libraries to extend opening hours thanks to new technology following funding boost

Libraries in Sandwell will be able to extend their opening hours thanks to new technology following a funding boost.

On Monday Thimblemill Library in Smethwick launches the pilot of Library+ technology – a new way for libraries to maintain and extend opening hours.

Staying open for longer and being able to offer a range of facilities during extended hours will ensure that the library remains an integral part of the local community, council bosses say.

Sandwell Council applied for and successfully secured £495,000 funding from Arts Council England’s Libraries Improvement Fund (LIF) to support the roll-out of this technology to a number of libraries within the borough.

Library+ works with existing security systems, and offers access to local communities when library staff are not available.

Library users will need to sign up to an additional agreement and have an induction.

They will be able to enter using their library card and a personal identification number. Unaccompanied children will not be allowed access.

CCTV is in place and anyone misusing the facility will be excluded from any further use.

Many libraries across the country use this model of service delivery, with the majority using Open+ to enable a library to open with or without staff needing to be present.

Open+ is the brand name of the product produced by Bibliotheca, which provides the self-service kiosks in Sandwell Libraries.

Equipment installed at Thimblemill Library includes a new automated public entrance, additional internal fire doors, as well as a concertina-style gate to close off the staff area when they are not in the building.

The funding from Arts Council England’s LIF will support the roll-out of this technology to 10 other libraries within the borough later in the year at Bleakhouse; Brandhall; Cradley Heath; Great Barr; Great Bridge; Hill Top; Langley; Oakham; Rounds Green, and Stone Cross.

Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “The Library+ pilot at Thimblemill Library will complement the skills, passion and wealth of knowledge of our library staff, and enhance the strong community focus that is embedded in Sandwell’s libraries.

“The innovation and transformational scope of the Open+ technology will support our service delivery, enabling us to continue to provide efficient, valued resources and activities for our users.

“Our commitment to developing services that matter and meet the needs of our communities is at the heart of initiatives like Library+.

"This project will help users to feel connected and valued in their neighbourhoods, and strengthen our libraries as successful centres of community life.”

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