Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Councillor Henry Higgins, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure, London Borough of Hillingdon

I am aware that the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee are holding an inquiry into Library closures and would welcome the opportunity to attend a session and give some oral evidence at a time of your convenience.

A lot has been written and spoken about the Library service offered by the London Borough of Hillingdon. We are very proud of the achievement of cutting costs by 20%, whilst tripling the use of the service.

It started in 2007 when we decided to take a unique approach. We decided to find out what our residents wanted, what would make them use Library services. So after a lengthy consultation period, we introduced Starbucks coffee (sold at 30% cheaper than the high street price) and we created a partnership with Apple to bring in Mac computers and new comfortable seating so students would come into the Library after school and college.

We were convinced that if we were to deliver the council’s vision of “Putting Residents First” the Libraries had to be central to our thinking, but we knew the same old tired revamping formula wouldn’t work. In a changing digital age our Libraries need to adapt, to modernise and develop to attract a new generation of customer but still remain true to their communities and to serve the residents that continued to use them.

As Libraries for Life for Londoners spelt out, we had to let the Librarians run the libraries. They should be given the power to choose which books are bought for their libraries; after all they are the people who face the residents’ day in and day out. However we went one step further than that—we gave the profits from the coffee sold in the Library to the Librarians to spend on whatever they felt was most suited to their Library.

We have managed to make £311,000 of efficiency savings through re-organising back office staff and arranging for books to be delivered straight to the branch rather than to a central store at the same time, Hillingdon’s Libraries announced record visitor numbers- more than 80,000 in some libraries—as well as record book loans at the end of last year, bucking the national trend and the Council remains committed to rebuilding or refurbishing all of our libraries by the end of 2014.

As I mentioned earlier we believe we have an excellent story to tell, and points listed above are just a few of the transformation and innovations we have made.

I would be delighted to be given to opportunity to share more of our story with you at a session in your inquiry should you feel it appropriate and my contact details can be found at the bottom of this letter.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012