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Next steps for Staffordshire libraries

More than a dozen groups have expressed interest in taking on one of the next four Staffordshire libraries to be recommended for community management.

At the same time county wide consultation has revealed 445 more people willing to volunteer at their local library, to add to the 830 who already do so regularly.

The news is in a report on the future of Staffordshire’s library service, which proposes that Cheadle, Clayton, Eccleshall and Penkridge become community-managed libraries.

Stafford’s main library in the town centre is also earmarked for the introduction of self-service technology to extend opening hours – and this option may also be used at Penkridge if it doesn’t become a community managed library.

Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said:

We’ve worked hard with communities in recent years to keep their libraries very much at the heart of local life.

And having already seen 22 successfully go through this process we believe the community managed model provides opportunities to expand on the core service and offer whatever people want – whether it’s a medical drop-in centre, hairdressing or baby massage classes.”

The self-service technology pilot being considered for up to two libraries would allow registered users access to the building outside core staffed hours, but no library would become completely self-service.

Gill Heath said:

The consultation was about looking to the future: we wanted to build on the success of the community library idea, but we also wanted to consult over how we would use technology which is already well-established in other parts of the country.”

Staffordshire has 43 libraries: 22 are community managed or in the process of becoming so, while the remaining 21 are managed directly by the county council.

Under community management agreements, groups take on the management and day-to-day running of the building, while the council remains responsible for agreed utility bills and maintenance costs.

Successful library managers include local groups, a health trust, a church, Rotarians and a business enterprise group. One group, the Werrington Community Volunteer Group, has just received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the equivalent of the MBE for voluntary groups.

The report also notes that a new partner is being sought to take on the day-to-day management of Cheslyn Hay library after a previous agreement failed to progress. If a new partner is not found by April 2019 it is suggested that the county council may consult on closing the library there.

The report says that Staffordshire’s library service still reaches a third of the county’s population and has 2.8 million visits a year, with 2.2 million items loaned.

Gill Heath added:

The way people read the written word has changed dramatically in recent years and so has the way people use their library.

We’re intent on doing our best to keep them busy, popular and relevant to local communities.”


Notes for editors

The libraries involved in this review are Biddulph, Burntwood, Burton, Cannock, Cheadle, Clayton, Codsall, Eccleshall, Kidsgrove, Leek, Lichfield, Newcastle, Penkridge, Perton, Rugeley, Stafford, Stone, Tamworth, Uttoxeter and Wombourne.

Those libraries already part of the community managed scheme are Audley, Barton, Baswich, Blythe Bridge, Brereton, Brewood, Glascote, Great Wyrley, Gnosall, Heath Hayes, Hednesford, Holmcroft, Kinver, Knutton, Loggerheads, Norton Canes, Rising Brook, Shenstone, Silverdale, Talke, Werrington and Wilnecote.

A report will be considered by the county council’s all-party Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee next week, before going to cabinet in July.