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Communities in Gnosall, Penkridge and Stafford asked to run their local libraries

By Kerry.Ashdown  |  Posted: June 11, 2014

Stone library

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Libraries in Gnosall, Penkridge, Rising Brook, Holmcroft, Baswich and Brereton are among 24 earmarked to become “library local” centres under new proposals.

Community organisations would be given the chance to manage their library, including maintaining current services or introducing new ones. They would be supported by the council but it would not be directly involved in management or staffing.

Bigger libraries in Stafford, Stone, Eccleshall and Rugeley would be classed as “library core” centres, where the county council would continue to deliver full library services.

Four libraries in Newcastle under Lyme, Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton on Trent would become “centres of excellence”. They would have the widest range of services, provided by the council, and potential to share sites with other organisations to offer access to other services.

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There would be investment in online library services to improve their usability, including compatibility with more electronic devices.

No changes to mobile library services are being proposed however and the plans to move Stafford Library from Shire Hall to Staffordshire Place are not part of this consultation.

Councillor Mike Lawrence, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, localism and communities, is asking the council cabinet to approve a 12 week consultation on the future of the county library service at its meeting on Wednesday.

He said the proposals could save the council £1.25million over three years, but stressed the intention was not to close any on the county’s existing 43 libraries. He added that the council was unable to say at this stage if and where there would be job losses.

Libraries run by communities would remain part of the county library network so their users could continue to access services in other towns and villages.

“This is not a closure programme and these changes are not simply about saving money - it’s about making libraries relevant for the future. I want to make sure that in 2017 we will still have 43 libraries,” he told the Newsletter.

“We understand there is a possibility some communities won’t be ready or prepared to take on that responsibility now and we don’t expect this to happen overnight. This is going to happen up to 2017 so we have three years to work with these communities and I am confident in that time we will be able to give communities the confidence to do it.

“While communities love their libraries the way people use them is changing. We want to act now so that they remain relevant and popular for years to come.

“Library usage is falling in particular as more people go online to read, find information or socialise. We need to respond to that so we want communities to have a bigger say in what they want from their local library and to tell us how they want to be involved. And the greater their enthusiasm, the more they can be involved.

“We need to change, radically, to reinvigorate our libraries so they are better used within their communities and to do this within the council’s financial resources.”

If the consultation is approved next week it is set to be launched on July 7. Residents and local organisations would have 12 weeks to have their say and there would be public consultation events held across the county.

Councillor Philip Jones, who represents the Stone Urban area, welcomed the news about Stone’s library services. He said: “Stone Library will continue unaffected by any necessary changes elsewhere. Obviously I am very pleased with this and I would like to see even more use made of our excellent library by community groups and schools.

“It is a well-used and an essential part of the town. The library staff are always open to suggestions. “The mobile library, so appreciated by our elderly residents, will also continue unaffected by changes.”

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