Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet has approved plans to bring Bath’s Library and One Stop Shop together at the Podium.
The changes are part of an upfront investment in the combined Library and One Stop Shop that will make the service sustainable for the future and ensure local library services meet the changing way people are using libraries in the 21st century. Community engagement will now start to work up a detailed design.
By investing in the library service now and integrating the Council’s library and customer service, this will also save the authority almost £400,000 a year towards an overall savings target of £800,000 from the Council’s Modern Libraries programme.
The decision to keep the Library in its current home was backed by 92 per cent of residents who took part in public consultation earlier this summer. The other option put forward in the consultation was to relocate the library to Lewis House on Manvers Street.
Councillor Karen Warrington, (Conservative, Clutton), Cabinet Member for Transformation & Customer Services, said: “We consulted extensively with local people over our modernisation programme and have listened to what residents have said about their preferred location for the library and One Stop Shop in the years ahead.
“The passion of the debate shows how much our library service is valued by residents. By investing in our library service and One Stop Shop now, we can ensure this service is both sustainable for the long-term and meets the needs of modern library users in the years ahead. The next step will now be engaging with a cross-section of residents and library and one stop shop users on the design and layout.”
Councillor Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, added: “I’m proud that, while other Councils are closing libraries, we are investing in our library service and finding innovative ways to make this service sustainable for the long-term. Like Keynsham, we would love to see an increase in the number of users – which has to be a good thing.”
As well as modernising the service to make the service sustainable and meet the needs of today’s library users, by integrating library and customer services the Council hopes to reach more people from all ages and backgrounds – providing a place where everyone in the community can access support, knowledge, culture and events.
A total of 1,891 people responded to the public consultation, details of which were shared on the council’s website, via social media, in libraries and one stop shops, GP surgeries, leisure centres, and children’s centres. Steps were also taken to ensure that people from hard-to-reach groups were able to give their views. Full Council, Scrutiny and interest groups were also fed into the consultation process.
Cabinet noted the outcome of the consultation; accepted the recommendation of the Podium as the location for the central Bath integrated library and One Stop Shop and approved capital spending of £330,000 for the next phase of the programme.
It also agreed the next phase will involve the appointment of architects and a programme of user and partner engagement for detailed designs and costings.
With a location for the Library and One Stop Shop now agreed, the Council has committed to engaging with a representative cross-section of the community to assist in the design of the layout in order to ensure that it meets local needs and be successful in encouraging wider use of the facility, especially from young people, disabled people, those from more deprived backgrounds, as well as those established library users.
This cross-section of the community will also include representatives from Save Bath Library and staff groups.
It is anticipated that this phase will take place between November 2017 and May 2018.
Meanwhile, plans for a new approach to the delivery of community libraries in Bath & North East Somerset have also been approved.
Cabinet also agreed to the investment of £275,000 in a programme which will build on successful, independently-run community libraries in Bath & North East Somerset – such as those in Chew Stoke, Larkhall and Combe Hay -, to deliver a network of community-run libraries with locally managed services tailored to their community’s needs.
As part of these plans, the Council will also be looking to work with local communities and parish councils to move existing branch libraries onto a community-led model.
The Council will provide investment advice and professional support for the community-run libraries with the aim of bringing better, more community-focused services to areas that currently have difficulty accessing library services.
Councillor Karen Warrington (Conservative, Clutton), Cabinet Member for Transformation & Customer Services, said: “I believe that by harnessing the passion of communities for their libraries, passion that was clear from the recent consultation, along with their knowledge of local need that we can best ensure their sustainability.
“As I have stressed, this is not about withdrawing Council support, though we have acknowledged the need to find savings and maximise value; it is about finding innovative solutions than can help libraries reach new audiences.”
These libraries could be run in a wide variety of spaces including cafes, a hall, health centre, or even a local shop, with room for events or space to meet depending on the community.
The three main libraries in Bath, Keynsham and Midsomer Norton will all continue to be run separately from this initiative and managed by the Council.
As part of the investment, the Council will be setting aside a start-up fund of £5,000 per scheme providing books from central stock, assisting with training and providing access to a wide range of targeted community services provided by the Council.
A series of public meetings have already been held across B&NES and community groups and parish council that have expressed an interest in being involved will be considered. Further meetings will be held at area forums yet to express an interest.