Changes to the mobile library service across Essex and help for communities that want to set up their own libraries are going ahead after a public consultation.
The new timetable changes will take effect on April 3.
More than 1,400 people and organisations had their say in the consultation last autumn and broadly supported plans to remove unused stops, merge stops serving the same community and increase the minimum stop time to 30 minutes.
Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, said: “Our new mobile libraries will visit 217 locations over a three-week cycle delivering a viable timetable and ending the current situation where there have been no visitors at some stops.
“We’re supporting five groups to set up volunteer-run community libraries initially, however 124 consultees expressed an interest in doing the same and 50 potential sites were suggested for us to investigate.
“Community libraries give people greater access to books, at a time and location which is more convenient, involve more of the community and most importantly, help reduce social isolation.”
The changes are being made because use of the current mobile library service has nearly halved since 2011, and seven of the nine mobile library vehicles are at the end of their working lives, making them unreliable as well as expensive to replace.
The new service will be provided by two newer vehicles, which are larger and better equipped.
Three quarters of the people who responded to the consultation were regular mobile library users and they favoured visits every three weeks, instead of every four weeks.
Respondents did not agree with removing stops less than two miles from a library building, so Essex County Council Cabinet reduced the distance limit to 1.5 miles.
Residents were also concerned about the impact on elderly and disabled users. Therefore, before the new timetable is introduced, libraries staff are talking to care homes, and residents in locations the larger vehicles cannot reach, about alternative options.
Anyone unable to access a library or mobile library can sign up for the Home Library Service, which is delivered by volunteers, or a Friends and Family card, so that others can collect books on their behalf. You can sign up at your library, online at libraries.essex.gov/home-library-service or by phone on 0345 603 7628.
Details of the new timetable will be displayed at each mobile library stop before 3 April and sent to town and parish councils. You will be able to search for stops near you on the Essex Libraries website at libraries.essex.gov.uk/mobile-library-service.