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North Yorkshire's libraries still under threat


11:21am 1st June 2011

Libraries are vital to the future of North Yorkshire's communities.

That is the message from the extensive three month consultation North Yorkshire County Council has undertaken with members of the public over its proposals for the future of the library service.

County council members and officials have listened long and hard to the public response and have revised proposals in order to maintain a vibrant library service for the county's communities by spreading savings fairly across the county.

The council needs to save £69 million in total over the next few years and £2 million was set to be found from the library budget. The greatest savings must be made in the first two years due to the government's frontloading of its funding settlement.  Further funding has now been found, so reducing the library savings to £1.7 million, which provides greater time to work with communities to find solutions.

North Yorkshire currently has 42 branch libraries, 10 mobiles and one "super-mobile" library equipped with internet technology.  In recent years the council has encouraged greater direct community involvement in developing and delivering library services. Hugely successful examples of community run libraries already exist  in the towns of Hawes, Upper Wensleydale, Grassington in Wharfedale, North Stainley, in a village pub in Hudswell, Swaledale and in an extra care outlet in Bainbridge.  

With the need to find significant savings the county council has sought to accelerate this community approach and has been heartened by the wide range of ideas and offers put forward during the public consultation.  This remains a vital approach if the county is to maintain a comprehensive library network.

Nevertheless the county council has taken full account of the passionate belief of those engaged in the consultation process that savings should be shared across all libraries.

The county council's executive later this month (June) will therefore decide on a revised set of proposals which will maintain the core service across the county, including market towns, while retaining its supermobile service to remote, sparsely populated areas:

  •    Libraries in key centres of population will offer the full range of services but with fewer library staff and opening hours reduced from their current level with no Sunday opening.  Existing opening hours could be maintained by increasing the use of volunteers in all libraries as well as increasing the number of groups and partners using libraries as their base or outlet.  This already works successfully in Harrogate. Libraries in this category would include Catterick, Crosshills, Filey, Harrogate, Knaresborough, Malton/Norton (one site), Northallerton, Pickering, Richmond, Ripon, Scarborough, Selby, Settle, Sherburn, Skipton, Stokesley, Thirsk and Whitby.
  •    Libraries in smaller towns, areas of significant population and areas of social or rural deprivation will be supported with accommodation, bookstock, IT facilities and broadband connectivity.  They will also be provided with an element of professional staffing based in the library, albeit at a reduced rate than currently provided. The county council is already working in partnership with community groups and organisations in these areas.  Libraries in this category would include Bedale, Bentham, Boroughbridge, Colburn, Easingwold, Eastfield, Hawes, Helmsley, Ingleton, Kirkbymoorside, Leyburn, Pateley Bridge, Scalby, Starbeck and Tadcaster
  •    The county council will continue to seek local solutions with local partners and groups for those libraries in unsuitable premises or in close proximity to the county's key centre libraries.  If a solution is found the library service will continue to provide regularly updated book stock as well as training and monitoring by members of the professional library team for volunteers and partners. Libraries in this category include Barlby, Bilton, East Ayton, Embsay, Gargrave, Great Ayton, Hunmanby and Masham.  There has been a very encouraging response from interested groups so far and the revised approach provides time for communities to find a solution.  
  •    The cost of the current mobile service is acknowledged as no longer sustainable and that other solutions must be found.   Many consultation responses have come forward with offers in the form of library outlets in village halls, shops and pubs and in some instances villages are investigating the restoration of their "Reading Rooms". The county council will also retain the supermobile to sustain provision in the most rural reaches of the county.  Moreover the Home Library and Information Service, which is run successfully by volunteers, will compensate further by ensuring that we continue to provide for those unable to access the library service by any other means.

County councillor Chris Metcalfe, North Yorkshire's Executive Member for the Library and Information Service said:

"We have listened hard during this extensive consultation and feel heartened that our outstanding libraries are held in such high regard as centres of excellence for reading, learning and community engagement.  For this reason we believe the solution we have now put together will help to sustain a vital service into the future, shared across the county while making the necessary savings."

A further report will be brought back to the Executive in October 2011 outlining the outcome of partnership discussions with communities.  It will also detail how further savings of £1m will be achieved between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

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