Plans to maintain 14 library sites approved

Author: Dalitso Njolinjo


Proposals which will maintain 14 library sites in Barnet have been given the go ahead by full council.

At a meeting of full council on Monday 4 April members voted to approve the proposals which follow public consultation.

The changes to the library service will see:

• 14 library sites retained, as well as the home, mobile and digital library services

• Increased opening hours at 10 sites through the use of new technology to enable a library to open unstaffed, as being trialled at Edgware Library

• Volunteering opportunities for individuals and community groups to help run their local library

• Increased income generated through greater commercial usage of library buildings to off-set the level of budget reductions.

The plans considered by full council included a number of revised proposals aimed at reflecting feedback from over 1,200 residents who expressed their views during the most recent round of consultation. 

The extended technology enabled opening hours will now be supported by live CCTV monitoring, with the age for children to access an unstaffed library unaccompanied lowered to include children who are age 15, in Year 11 at school and have parental consent.

The CCTV will be monitored in real time and will provide enhanced security and reassurance for library users. An audio link will allow operators to communicate with library users, with controllers able to alert the emergency services or security staff.

Over the next four years, the council will need to continue to save money from across all services - including libraries - in order to meet an overall budget gap of £81.1 million to 2020.

The Children Education Libraries and Safeguarding Committee (CELS) is expected to save £14.5 million across its portfolio.  The updated proposals are expected to save £2.16 million by 2020.

The agreed proposals aim to balance maintaining the same number of library sites with the need for the council to make savings across its services.

The biggest cost associated with running the library service is staff, which amounts to 70 per cent of the costs of the service. Therefore, to achieve the necessary savings, the proposals will require reduced staffed operating hours of the library buildings.

The proposals would also see some reductions in library sizes with increased income generated from commercial use of the space.

Chris Munday, Commissioning Director for Children and Young People, said: “The proposals agreed by full council will achieve savings and maintain the same number of libraries as well as keep the home, mobile and digital services and increase access to libraries using new technology to extend opening hours.”

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