Radical Shake Up Of Library Services On Way

More focus on digital, changing opening hours and joining a central library system

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Hounslow Council has voted through radical plans to save over £1 million by restructuring libraries across the borough. This came after a report showed that library usage in the borough had declined by 65% over the last nine years.

It is likely to mean changes in opening hours, a link up with a London Consortium of libraries with an emphasis on digital membership, more use of self-service borrowing and returns and staff having to work across library 'hubs' instead of being based at one branch.

As revealed by ChiswickW4.com last March, the proposed changes will affect staffing levels in all areas, including those where specialist knowledge is required, such as Local History and Archives - least one full time position in this area is expected to be lost.

Hounslow Council, which took back control of the running of its libraries from Carillion last year, wants to centralise the service by joining a Library Consortium of local authorities which would give it access to a bigger pool for books and digital information. It also intends to spend more on the IT section and staffing on the technology side.

While Hounslow Council has not said it intends closing any of the borough's eleven libraries - of which Chiswick is the second busiest, a cabinet meeting last Tuesday (17 July) was told that the Strategy will be the driver for developing the service to ensure 'relevance in a digital world, in the context of smaller budgets, increased partnerships, shared services and buildings and consortium working."

The Council also says that feedback from customers and staff shows that there is a view that the library hours should be reviewed and subject to a public consultation.

"The overall number of opening hours would not reduce across the library network and the consultation will seek views on how we can amend and alter library hours to suit the needs of our library users more effectively "

One example of changes in job description is the post of a Specialist and Outreach Manager, who would look after four areas, Archives and Local Studies, Library At Home, Prisons and Schools and Children's Services. The Council review proposes only one full time senior post for Local Studies and Archives, helped by an assistant.

Hounslow Council says that things have changed with the arrival of more online services, with people accessing reading materials and information differently. There is less use of traditional library facilities and the Council believes the service needs "to innovate, to stay relevant."

They propose joining The London Library Consortium, a partnership of 17 London Boroughs and Luton Culture, which began in 2003. The consortium operates a shared catalogue, giving
access to around 6million items, a shared Library Management System and shared
procurement opportunities from transport to smart apps.

The Council says that there are opportunities from the Hounslow Library Service joining the London Library Consortium and these include:
Improved Library Management System at a lower cost
Hosted IT gives a responsive and robust system, which allows for support out
of hours
Gives access to a wider stock for our readers
One card, which enables library users access to 120 service points across
London.
Ability for increased collaboration in service developments

An estimated 380,000 people used Chiswick Library per year, The building was originally a residential property converted to a library use with a late 1930's extension.

You can read the Report on the Library Strategy here.

July 21, 2018


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