Draft proposals for consultation regarding the modernisation of Nottingham City’s Library Service are set to be discussed at a meeting of the Council’s Executive Board on Tuesday 18th January. 

The draft proposals are being put forward in light of the council’s difficult financial situation and include consideration of closing three libraries that have low usage and high costs.

Also being put forward for consultation are proposals for delivering the service differently. This includes the sharing of spaces across services and partners and improvements to the online resources already available.

The proposals build on the views put forward in a previous consultation on the service, and follows nine months to bring together a wide range of local and national data, cost analysis and usage information, alongside looking at national best practice around service delivery.

A comprehensive report has now been completed which recognises that the way people are using libraries has changed dramatically but that libraries still have an important role to play in supporting the city and its communities.  However, the report highlights that the service in Nottingham has relatively high costs when compared to other similar cities and that there are opportunities to modernise the service as well as making it more efficient.

This includes building on the service’s strong digital offer now in place, alongside working in partnership with partners, groups and organisations to help shape future service needs, while taking into account that many communities have very different needs and requirements from its library provision.

Key issues that emerged in the work to compile the draft report were:

·     There has been a national decline in library usage over the last ten years which has been mirrored in Nottingham, which has been further accelerated by the pandemic

·     Trends in accessing library resources in person and digitally are starting to change. In the past two years Nottingham’s library service has seen a 330% growth in the numbers accessing online resources such as e-books and e-newspapers, as well as an increase in those accessing events and activities online

  • National benchmarking data suggests that the overall cost of libraries  is higher than most other library authorities. While library use overall for the city remains broadly comparable with other authorities, this is achieved through having a few highly-used locations such as the Central Library, Joint Service Centres and a few community libraries sites. The city therefore still has a number of individual libraries which have very low use, making their overall cost per active user high
  • Nottingham’s libraries still play an important role in communities by providing access to learning and resources, offering safe and welcoming spaces and providing essential access to free public computers and Wi-Fi to enable people to engage in the digital world.

The report recognises savings need to be found and that the service needs to be more financially sustainable, operating as efficiently as possible.  In last year’s budget, an expected saving of £233,000 was anticipated from the service spread over the next few years, with a further £39,400 savings proposed as part of this year’s budget consultations. The service has already completed a restructure achieving savings of £138,000, with the current proposals contributing a further £134,000 towards the savings target.

As such, the report contains proposals to reduce the network of facilities that lack the opportunity for modernisation or where other nearby facilities exist, to ensure that library service costs are in-line with similar library providers. The proposed changes include:

• Closure of Basford Library

• Closure of Radford Lenton Library

• Closure of Aspley Library to the public to re-purpose as a distribution point for Home Library Service, Bookstart, Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service and mobile/outreach services.

Nottingham City Council Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Schools, Cllr Eunice Campbell-Clark, said: “We have had a strong track record for investing in our library service, but our current financial situation means we have some difficult decisions to make.

“We commissioned research which makes it clear that as well as making savings to ensure we have a service that is financially sustainable, we need to adapt our libraries so they meet the needs of the future. The pandemic has served to accelerate a move to online library resources in Nottingham as elsewhere and so while we know that libraries are often well-loved community resources, sadly some are under-used as people’s habits change.

“We wouldn’t choose to close down community libraries, but I remain committed to having a strong, professionally staffed library service that can provide support, give guidance and enable all our residents to access books, digital resources, provide learning, and development opportunities. If the proposals are taken forward, I would encourage people to get involved in the consultation and give us their views and opinions around whether what we are proposing will provide the future library service we need in Nottingham.”

If the recommendations in the report are agreed by Executive Board, a 12-week public consultation will take place from the end of January to May 2022.