Culture, Media and Sport CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Staffordshire County Council

Staffordshire County Council has focused strongly on outcomes which will make Staffordshire an even better place to live and is committed to modernising and enhancing the library service to ensure that it is comprehensive, efficient and attracts increased community use. We have positioned our libraries as a focal point for communities and in addition to loaning books, CDs, DVDs, talking books and e-books offer events and activities, free access to the internet, free WiFi and meeting room space. We also work closely with partners and volunteers who contribute to making our service more relevant to local communities.

There are no plans to close libraries in Staffordshire and this commitment comes from strong political support which is embedded in the County Council’s strategic plan that recognises the contribution that libraries make in delivering the County Council’s priority outcomes.

The library service supports the county council’s core values of focussing on the customer and citizen, listening and responding to local needs and providing efficiency and economy through innovation.

Our service priorities are to continue to provide quality services and good value for money, attract new customers, get more people reading, borrowing and learning and extend our role as a flexible community asset.

Libraries across Staffordshire provide a welcoming, non threatening environment where babies can take part in activities that support early language and speech development; children can develop a love of reading; individuals and families can learn; job-seekers can find support; people who are digitally excluded can access the internet; older people can maintain their independence and volunteers have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to their community.

1. Partnership Working

Working in partnership has enabled Staffordshire Library Service to draw down additional funding from other parts of the County Council—Adult and Community Learning, Community & Learning Partnerships, Early Years—by demonstrating how the library offer can deliver against their outcomes has meant that we have been able to extend aspects of our service with the additional funding.

We have also worked in partnership with a range of voluntary and community based groups—and the re-build of Norton Canes Library and Talke Library have seen us develop a shared management model with community organisations.

2. Joint Use of Buildings

Where possible we have encouraged joint use/co-location of our services and buildings. We have marketed our buildings as community assets and encouraged a range of providers to make full use of the facilities.

For example:

Children’s centresWombourne, Brewood, Perton, Audley, Clayton, Werrington, Stone.

SchoolsWilnecote, Brereton, Talke, Blythe Bridge, Gnosall.

District Council Services—Cheadle, Hednesford, Codsall, Leek.

Community Centre—Wombourne.

Touchdown centres/Joint bases—Burton, Uttoxeter, Glascote, Newcastle, Biddulph, Lichfield.

Job Centre—Uttoxeter with access to Job Centre phones in Rugeley, Stone and Cheadle.

GalleryShire Hall.

3. Widening Accessibility of the Service

A key priority for Staffordshire’s Library Service is to attract new customers so that we can get more people reading, borrowing and learning.

The following are areas where we have been able to remove some of the perceived barriers to using a library:

24 hour renewal hotline.

E-mail and text messaging for overdue reminders & requests available for collection.

On-line joining, requests and renewals.

Online resources—eg Ancestry—Library Edition.

4. Establishing Libraries as Community Hubs

Key to our success has been the development of our network of 43 libraries as community hubs/assets.

The following are examples of service enhancements which have made this possible:

Introduction of WiFi at 40 out of 43 service points, April 2011.

Access point for Staffordshire Cares programme.

Registration point for concessionary bus passes.

Assisting other county council departments to meet their objectives—eg Social Care & Heath through reminiscence and social activity sessions.

Extending opening hours to meet community needs and using volunteers to give an enhanced service and provide added value.

Working with job centres and establishing job clubs to support job seekers.

Use of meeting room space and IT facilities, working jointly with Adult and Community Learning to widen learning opportunities at a community level in a non-school environment.

Re-furbishing and promoting our meeting rooms to provide local community space which generates income and meet targets.

Extending Books on Prescription to support the Health & Well agenda.

Placing books in community and work place venues to widen access—eg Custody Centres, Doctors Surgeries, Clinics, Homeless Project, Women’s Refuge, Phones 4 U.

5. New Initiatives to Improve Efficiency

The library service supports the county council’s core values of focussing on the customer and the citizen, listening and responding to local needs and providing efficiency and economy through innovation.

We aim to provide an efficient, modern and value for money library service to the residents of Staffordshire and have implemented the following:

Self-service to enable customers to check out/in loan items for themselves and to be able to manage their library account independently, quickly and easily. This has also enabled us to modernise and re-shape the front line staffing—freeing up our staff to actually support customers reading/learning and leisure needs rather than the clerical/admin functions which had occupied at least 75% of their time.

Direct Delivery of stock to libraries which will speed up supplier to shelf time and save £100,000.

E-book service launched March 2011 to attract new audiences to borrowing books from Staffordshire Libraries and accessing the library web page. The service allows customers to borrow three e-books for three weeks and e-books on loan can be requested free of charge. E-book titles are available for adults, young people and children.

Shared Services—Staffordshire Libraries have been commissioned to deliver a mobile library service on behalf of Stoke on Trent libraries when their service was reduced due to budget cuts in April 2011.

An upgraded library management system to reduce costs and increase access to databases and library stock will be implemented in 2012.

Within Staffordshire County Council we see a comprehensive and efficient library service as providing:

Free book loans and information available in accessible formats including e-books.

CDs and DVDs to hire.

Faxing and photocopying.

Free access to the internet and free wifi.

Events and activities for all ages and interests.

Meeting rooms and community space available for use by groups and individuals.

Exhibition space to support local cultural activity.

Services to people who are housebound.

Mobile library service for rural communities.

Library service to residential homes and sheltered housing.

Libraries in prisons and young offenders institutes.

Service to schools via the Schools Library Service to support education.

Access to local and family history resources to celebrate our heritage.

Support for reading groups so that people can share their love of reading.

Support for Health and Well being – eg through Books on Prescription.

Support for literacy and learning.

Support for job-seekers.

Access to nationwide resources via the interlibrary loan system.

Virtual access to the library service.

Enabling access to other County Council and government services.

6. Impact of Library Closures

The Library Service delivered by Staffordshire County Council contributes to defining the image and identity of communities. Libraries in Staffordshire:

Engage with audiences and increase participation to deliver social, economic and educational benefits.

Enable communities to manage and deliver aspects of cultural services through increased engagement.

Provide volunteer opportunities.

Are flexible community assets.

Offer accessible, enjoyable and inspirational learning activities.

Enable increased access, with support, to digital services for people who might be excluded.

Foster imagination, encourage creativity and raise aspirations.

When library provision is withdrawn, individuals are denied access to more than just books and will lose opportunities to learn, socialise, participate, contribute and volunteer within a safe and strong community.

January 2012

Prepared 5th November 2012