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December 8, 2010

Smart thinking required for libraries

We all know that Councils are under intense pressure to make savings. Irrespective of where the cuts are made they will be deeply unpopular.  But running in parallel to the cuts there needs to be some fresh thinking and a willingness to engage with the users of these services in ways that haven’t happened before. An LPL supporter who is active in the University of the Third Age has a suggestion for the future of libraries

Contribution from an LPL supporter

One of the local government facilities to be hardest hit will be local libraries. How they will be run will vary from place to place but we have yet to see some firm proposals. Obviously volunteers will have to play a major part if there is not to be a total shutdown. Rural areas like our will be hardest hit. The next library at present is 15 miles away. One idea I have heard mooted is to amalgamate several smaller ones into a couple of major ones but this is wholly an urban idea and impossible in the countryside. As it is our Council HQ is 60 miles away due to the consolidations of the early seventies.

We have a strong U3A here with a high potential of very suitable volunteers and we wonder what suggestions have been made to library authorities round the country to use them in order to keep our local libraries going. We could supply both personnel and competent running given the opportunity  but we need a plan to offer the authorities . Do anyone know of any such around the UK?

To expand – A suggestion might be to form a trust for a local library – in our case the next nearest is 15 miles away. I think it should not have a lending function – it would make the running too complicated for a purely voluntary staff. Lending could be carried out by the library bus which at present serves all the outlying villages and is stationed on the various village greens on certain days for a certain number of hours. As I say this service could be expanded to include the main town in the area. The local library freed of the usual books lent ie modern novels/detective stories would allow space for a coffee shop one function of which would be to raise funds to buy more reference books and to make the library more conducive to reading in situ especially for those doing some kind of research. In our case we might be able to use the community centre where there are computers and use the ones at  present in the library only for researching on books.  Any thoughts on the subject greatly welcomed – Councils have to start making decisions on their libraries very quickly!