Nottingham City Council is launching a 12-week public consultation on proposed changes to its library service.
Launching on Monday 31 January, the consultation recommends a number of changes to buildings and ways of working, including the closure of three libraries that have some of the lowest usage and highest costs – and that have better, more modern facilities located nearby.
This follows on from a consultation undertaken last year where over 1,700 responses were received, helping the council to take a detailed review of the service’s performance.
The proposals are being put forward as the City Council takes action to make £28m of savings in its 2022/23 budget and set a medium-term financial plan for the next four years to place the authority on a stable financial footing.
In light of the council’s difficult financial situation, it is hoped that the proposed transformation will help the library service adapt and become more cost-effective, while also ensuring the needs of Nottingham’s residents continue to be met.
Libraries still have an important role to play in supporting the city and its communities, but the ways people use library services have changed and will continue to do so. The council is looking at how the service could be delivered in new ways and is asking people to get involved and say what they think about the proposals, to help determine a long-term plan.
Councillor David Mellen, Leader of Nottingham City Council said: “We know that libraries are important, and it is with regret that we propose any closures. The council has made £303m of budget savings since 2010 and has sought to protect libraries from the impact of this. However, we now need to be realistic and resourceful about the future of libraries and meeting the needs of our residents. It is important now that you tell us what you want, expect and need from a modern library service in Nottingham.
“No decisions on any of the proposals being discussed have been made or will be made until we consider your views. We would appreciate you responding to our survey to help inform the City Council about shaping its future library service. Help us write The Next Chapter.”
The proposals include:
1. Modernising and rationalising the library network
There are a lot of differences between Nottingham’s 15 library buildings in terms of how well they’re used, how much they cost to run, where they’re located and what condition they’re in.
Fewer visits to library buildings isn’t unique to Nottingham – there’s been a national decline in library usage over the last ten years, which has been mirrored here and further accelerated by the pandemic.
How people access library resources has changed, too, with physical book loans in libraries decreasing.
The proposals consider closing three libraries – Aspley, Basford and Radford-Lenton – that have low usage and high costs, with newer, more modern libraries located nearby.
Reducing the number of library buildings in Nottingham could help ensure the service remains financially sustainable, with investment being targeted at the remaining library sites to ensure they remain accessible and modern.
2. Making the most of technology
Nowadays, basic digital access and skills are essential, so that everyone can engage with an increasingly digital world.
Libraries are safe, welcoming spaces that play a key role in providing that access – through free public computers and Wi-Fi, along with digital learning opportunities and resources.
In Nottingham, public computer usage is almost double that of the national average, and 51% of respondents to the council’s initial survey said that they are likely to access library services online in future.
In the past two years, there has been a 330% increase in people accessing resources online, such as e-books and e-newspapers, as well as an increase in people attending events and taking part in activities online. Therefore, investment is needed to develop this growing part of the service over the next five years.
However, a balance must be struck between our digital and physical provision, so communities can benefit from the best of both worlds.
3. Building partnerships and working together
Libraries already provide essential access to education opportunities, lifelong learning and training courses in Nottingham, both in person and online.
Library staff, too, play a key role in signposting people to information and services, such as jobseekers’ support, Business & IP Centre Nottinghamshire and the city’s wider universal services.
Libraries also play a significant role in supporting people with health challenges, including dementia and social isolation. The role of library buildings as communal meeting spaces is highly valued by people who live in Nottingham, where they are viewed as ‘non-threatening,’ ‘trusted’ and ‘safe spaces.’
By identifying opportunities for better collaboration with partners and Public Health colleagues, it’s hoped some of the lifelong challenges faced by many people in our city can be addressed – from health and wellbeing to education and learning.
4. Developing a flexible approach to working
Nottingham City Libraries staff offer a ‘first port of call’ for residents who are unsure about how to access public services and employment support – from browsing online vacancies to completing a job application process.
They offer trusted advice and guidance in a number of areas, and libraries are seen as somewhere with people you can talk to if you have a problem.
Building on these strengths will help to provide the right kind of help where it’s needed most.
It is hoped that by adapting the service where needed and investing in the people who deliver it, encouraging volunteering and flexible working, Nottingham’s lifelong literacy, education and basic skills challenges can be tackled, to improve outcomes for everyone in the city.
How can you get involved?
To read more about the transformation programme and complete the survey from Monday 31 January, you can either go to www.nottinghamcitylibraries.co.uk/the-next-chapter or pop into your local city library where you can get a survey form to complete.
If you have any questions about the transformation programme or consultation, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the 12-week consultation period, there will also be opportunities to take part in public meetings.
The first of these will take place online on Tuesday 1 March, and you can register to attend at https://the-next-chapter.eventbrite.co.uk.
Venues for in-person meetings in March and April (subject to any COVID restrictions) are being finalised, and these will be advertised in due course.
Please visit www.nottinghamcitylibraries.co.uk/the-next-chapter for the latest information.