June 2019: The Mayor's view
Help us open a new chapter on libraries
THE challenge facing library services in Britain is a well-known story. Nationally, almost 130 were closed last year, while spending by local authorities on public libraries fell by £30m, meaning a 12 per cent reduction in the last four years. This reflects the financial pressure local authorities are under as our budgets are reduced in the name of austerity while demand for our services increases.
However in Bristol, thanks to the commitment and hard work to bring our finances under control, we’ve been able to turn the page and invest in our library service as we look to modernise the offer. Last July we committed to keeping all 27 libraries open and pledged to work with community groups to explore sustainable options for the future.
As part of this we conducted a library technology review to look at the systems and technology to make sure the service is supported by resilient, sustainable equipment. At our most recent cabinet meeting we accepted proposals to purchase 35 new portable kiosks and other supporting hardware. This £705,000 investment will mean we can offer alternative payment methods such as contactless, provide library users with more payment choices, and meet modern expectations.
I am also pleased that we have been able to extend Central Library’s opening hours. It will now be open 52.5 hours a week, including late night opening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We understand the importance of the Central Library for many people all across the city, so as part of our drive to improve the library service, we wanted to make sure it is open when people need it most.
Across the country there were 182 million books issued to almost eight million active borrowers in 2017/18, and libraries continue to provide key services for local communities. But we know that we need a new chapter in our understanding of how libraries are used if they are to thrive. What residents want from them is changing, and the service needs to adapt to this. We want to hear from community organisations, current and potential library users, businesses and councillors. The idea is that we work together to find the best possible solutions.
We are looking for people to come forward with workable ideas for their local library – we are open to discussing new ideas and are keen not to stand in people’s way. This will be different in each area as it needs to be individually tailored to each community. If you have an idea or suggestion, I ask that you contact your local councillor to find out more.