Cabinet asked to approve new library service

Cabinet will be asked to approve a new way of delivering library services in Peterborough which will see all ten libraries stay open and for longer using self-service technology.

The new model has been developed by the city council and Vivacity using feedback received during a first round of consultation last summer and a second round which is ongoing until Friday 20 March 2015 at 12noon.

Under the proposals, people will be able to access libraries for 375 hours per week as opposed to the current 261 through Open+ technology - that's 114 hours longer. The self-service technology is currently used in libraries in Leeds and London. The mobile library service and at-home service run by volunteers would continue as usual.

This would result in a reduction in staffed hours from the current 261 to 149. Staffed hours will be matched, where possible, to when activities are taking place such as rhymetime and reading groups. One rhymetime or storytime session will be held in each library every week.

In addition, assistants would be employed at Bretton, Orton, Central and Werrington libraries during self-service hours. Cabinet agreed this at a meeting on 23 February following concerns raised during the consultation about safety and access at these libraries during non-staffed hours.

Up until yesterday (11 March), 1,768 responses had been received as part of the second round consultation. Of these, 60.4 per cent support the proposal put forward and 39.6 per cent oppose it.

People have until midday on Friday 20 March 2015 to comment. Cabinet will then consider all the responses and decide whether to approve the proposal at a meeting on the same day at 2.30pm.

Councillor Lucia Serluca, cabinet member for city centre management, culture and tourism, said: "We are pleased with the number of responses we have received so far which once again shows how much people value their libraries. We have spent a great deal of time going out and talking to people about the proposals and we have emailed all 20,000 library card users. We know there will still be people who want to have their say which they can do right up until 12noon on the day of the Cabinet meeting.

"We have been reviewing the responses regularly and this is why we have already been able to adapt our proposal to address some of the concerns raised about access to four of our libraries using self-service hours. We want to provide a flexible library service that responds to local need rather than a one size fits all model.

"I believe that the model we are proposing will offer people an enhanced service, without us having to close any of our libraries. At a time when many other councils are having to close libraries, I am delighted that we have managed to develop a service that meets the needs of our residents whilst making the saving that we have to in order to continue meeting the needs of the whole city."

Under the new model, individual libraries would be open for a set number of staffed and self-service hours each week. For example, Central Library, which is currently staffed for 40 hours a week, would be open for a total of 55.5 hours - 33 of which would be staffed and 22.5 using Open+ and assistants.

Open+ is free to join and existing library members will be invited to opt-in during April. Customers that are Open+ members will be able to borrow books and other library materials, use library computers, take part in existing activities such as reading groups, knit and natter, storytime and rhymetime and set up new groups to meet within the libraries.

Open+ technology can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and customer safety.

There will be a one-off cost of £170,000 to introduce the technology at all ten libraries, with an ongoing cost of £10,000 per annum.

If Cabinet approves the new model, self-service technology will be rolled out to all libraries during April and May with new operating hours introduced.

A full breakdown of the current and proposed opening hours for each library is included in the Cabinet report.

The library service currently costs £1.52million to deliver. It is managed by Peterborough’s independent culture and leisure trust, Vivacity. The new model would save £305,000 in a full year.

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