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Mobile library service consultation plots the journey ahead toward community libraries

11 January 2018

Six new volunteer-run community libraries could be coming to Essex as a result of the recent consultation on the County Council’s mobile library service.

Findings from the consultation, which began in September 2017, will be presented to the County Council’s Cabinet at its January meeting.

As a result, six community groups and organisations have come forward and expressed a firm interest in hosting a volunteer-run community library, with over 50 other sites suggested and 124 consultees expressing an interest in helping set up and maintain new community libraries.

The consultation set out to create access to library services which provided a better fit with people’s lives across Essex.  

Use of the current mobile library service has reduced nearly 50% over the past seven years, and seven of the County Council’s existing nine mobile library vehicles are at the end of the working lives, making them unreliable as well as expensive to replace.

As a result of the consultation, changes have been made to the original proposals. Key recommendations to be considered by the Cabinet now include:

Mobile library stops will be located 1.5 miles or more from a library building (changed from an original proposal of two miles),
stops will be retained if they have been used by one or more visitors on average in the past six months,
where two stops serve a single community, we will keep the most popular stop, and;
each stop will be at least half an hour

Cllr Sue Barker, Cabinet member for Culture, Communities and Customers, said: “We’ve listened to what people told us and as a result, changed some of our original proposals. More than 1,400 people and organisations took part in the consultation, and of those, 82% supported the proposal to withdraw mobile library stops where there had been no visitors for over six months, 68% agreed with the proposal to extend stop times, and 63% of people agreed that stops which served the same community should be merged.

“We changed our proposals on how far mobile library stops should be away from library buildings, reducing the distance from two miles, to 1.5 miles. 

“In the future, our mobile libraries will visit 213 locations over a three-week cycle. This is a reduction from the current 557 stops, but means the service will be viable, and ends the current situation where at some stops, there have been no visitors at all for six months or more.”

Cllr Barker said she was pleased at the response from communities and individuals to support the expansion of community libraries and the Home Library Service.

“This was something we had hoped for and thanks to individuals, organisations and communities coming forward, we now have six potential new community library sites, plus 50 other locations which were suggested through the consultation.

“New community libraries would be run by volunteers, with the County Council’s support, and we can now start work on assessing the sites. This is a really important development because it means greater access to books, at a time and location which is more convenient, more community involvement and most important of all, a greater contribution to removing social isolation.”

Essex County Council’s Cabinet will consider the recommendations at its meeting on Tuesday 23 January.