- Why are you looking to carry out these changes to the Library Service?
Like all service providers we need to constantly review and ensure that our activities and resources are still relevant. There is a danger that if we don’t plan for change then our services run the risk of becoming irrelevant, redundant and the annual investment made by the Council Tax payer does not achieve the outcomes our communities need. Therefore, it is important that we do challenge ourselves and speak with our users and non-users about what they want from the City’s Library Service.
- What is happening with the plans for the new Central Library?
The delivery of a replacement new Central Library remains a council priority. Our recent Libraries Needs Assessment review has reinforced the important role that the Central Library plays in people’s usage of Nottingham’s Library Service. The project is continuing to move forward and we currently have external contractors market testing the pricing for completing the fit-out works, as part of our value for money assurance process.
- Libraries are about more than books – they are also community spaces. How will this be maintained in places where libraries may close?
We need to recognise that any change will, for some, be difficult. It is important that as a city we look at the wide range of public buildings we operate to ensure we deliver the best value, and where usage is low, we need to make decisions on what services we can continue to provide within the given budget.
- The council’s budget is under severe pressure. Isn’t this just about saving money?
The council like many other local authorities is facing a challenging financial situation. Libraries like all services have not been unique in having to find savings. In spending Council Tax payers’ money, we should ensure value for money. It is important that we recognise that usage is changing and the ways’ people access services is changing. Therefore this review is not just a cost saving exercise but a longer term modernisation programme for the service.
- Are other similar places to Nottingham also making changes to their Library Service?
Numerous authorities have made a wide variety of decisions about changes to their Library provision. Many have rationalised and closed libraries, while others have investigated different operating models from outsourcing provision to other providers or into Trusts. A number of library services have asked communities to manage and deliver the service. Within the wide spectrum of approaches there is not one right or wrong answer and all come with advantages and disadvantages. That is why it is right that we ask Nottingham residents whether what we are proposing is right for the city.
- When will we see libraries closing, and what will happen to the buildings?
No decision on closures has been made at this stage. We are very much making proposals and want to hear the views of Nottingham residents around whether what we are recommending is right.
- Rather than closing libraries, would you consider them being kept open and run by volunteers as community facilities?
We are open to hearing and considering all alternative options made to us around different delivery options. It is important that we have open conversations around this and any other matters that people participating in the consultation wish to bring up.
- How many libraries have been closed in Nottingham over the last 10 years?
Over the last 10 years, while several libraries have closed, many have received investment providing modern and adaptable community buildings and facilities meeting the needs of current and future library users. Libraries that have closed since 2012 are the mobile library service, QMC patient’s library and The Wells Road patient’s library.
Libraries that have benefitted from new builds are Bulwell, Hyson Green and St Ann’s libraries which all moved into purpose-built joint service centres. Strelley Road benefitted from a new build on its original site, bringing together modern library facilities and Nottingham City Homes independent living apartments, while Bakersfield and Sneinton Libraries closed when the refurbished Dales Centre opened combining library services with neighbourhood police.
- What impact will library closures have on the local schools?
We will continue to work with local schools, providing class visits along with an activity and event programme including the Nottingham Children’s Book Award, children’s theatre and World Book Day celebrations.
- Will there still be any public access to Aspley Library? If not, where will people go?
In the current proposal, Aspley Library building will be retained to help deliver outreach Library services without general access to the public. Again, we are interested to hear what people have to say and whether another option might exist. There are two other libraries located nearby; Strelley Road and Bilborough Libraries.
- If this plan is agreed and implemented does that mean no further libraries will have to close over the coming years?
This plan is to safeguard and build better financial resilience for the service longer term. We need to be mindful of changing needs and ways we can better serve communities. Where opportunities arise, we may consider moving the service to different locations. For example, we relocated services from Sneinton and Bakersfield Libraries to the new Dales Centre in the centre of the local shopping area.
- Isn’t the reason you are having to do this because you lost money due to Robin Hood Energy?
The reason for this work is to provide an efficient and well used library service. This is about creating a Library Service for the future and ensuring our provision continues to play a key role in our residents’ lives.
- What will happen to staff at libraries that may close?
No decisions have been made at this point. We currently have vacancies and we will hold back on filling these to minimise any potential compulsory redundancies.
- The libraries that may close are in areas of higher deprivation while ones in lower deprivation areas will stay open. Is this fair?
The closure proposals have been based on a number of criteria. These include deprivation impact, flexibility for longer term service adaptation and changing community needs, cost and usage. We have tried to ensure that in all locations alternative libraries are available to minimise any impact on the community.
- How will the proposals advance access to libraries in our more diverse communities?
As a service, libraries provide free access to reading materials both physically borrowed and online, as well as free access to PCs and free Wi-Fi. Libraries also offer a range of events, activities and services to support our diverse communities and most vulnerable residents. The proposals include a continuation and growth of digital and online services including access to e-learning resources and e-books as well online events and activities. With the network of physical libraries served by good public transport links and a number of alternative libraries within a 20-minute walk or short bus journey, residents will have a choice on how they access library services.
- Will the plans mean it will be easier to access library services, particularly for people who may find it difficult to access library buildings?
The growth and continuation of online services and resources are enabling us to increase and improve our offer to those who may struggle to access our physical buildings. Online resources are available 24/7 improving access to library services.
A Home Library Service is also available for people with difficulty in accessing a library building due to health issues, disability or caring responsibilities, where library materials are delivered to customers’ homes.
Parking facilities close to many of our libraries allow library visitors to use own transportation alongside public transport options enabling ease of access.
- How are you ensuring you maintain your statutory responsibilities for library services provision?
In developing our proposals we have carefully considered the key principals that should be followed in making changes to the City’s Library Service provision. Essential to this is consultation which we would urge everybody to engage with.
- Why are you continuing to cut the book fund?
Over the years we have made savings from reductions on the services book fund. We recognise moving forward just reducing this element without addressing other aspects of the service is not sustainable. That is why we need to take a broader look at the service and change the way we undertake our delivery and ways of working to better preserve the book fund to help ensure new material, resources and books continue to be available at local libraries.
- Will there be more emphasis on digital content and access?
In recognition of the gradual change of our customer usage trends in accessing our library services, we do need to recognise that a growing element of our resources will need to be available online. We already run a number of events and activities for adults and children online. These include the Summer Reading Challenge, Conversation Groups, Business & IP advice sessions and Community Family Learning Courses. We are digitising much of our Local Studies materials, so people can access these more easily. We have increased our range of eBooks, eAudio and eReference material that people can get access to through the library website.
- Will reading events and promotions continue, and how will you do this in areas where libraries may close?
We are committed to continuing activities such as the Summer Reading Challenge, reading groups, and author visits. Over the last few years we have introduced different delivery options such as StoryParks and online reading challenges to enable as many people as possible to engage with these services.
- Isn’t this just a way to fund the replacement new Central Library?
The replacement for the Central Library is funded by the council’s Capital Programme and is not connected with revenue savings that the library service is being asked to find.
- Why are you pushing ahead with the Central Library plans when you say people aren’t going to libraries as much any-more?
Whilst there has been decline in book issues and footfall, generally we still see a large number of people using our services. The highest overall library usage was in the Central Library. In our first consultation survey, many people stressed the importance and the role of the Central Library because of the depth of materials it has available including unique stock not available in other libraries, and the broad programme of classes and activities on offer. We recognise where investment has been made in newer facilities we do see footfall and attendance increase so placing our investment in the correct areas will still be important moving forward.
- What will the library operation from Aspley actually do?
Aspley Library will bring together a range of library services under one roof. This will include NPALS which distributes music, drama and orchestral sets for amateur choirs, drama groups and orchestras. The Home Library Service for the delivery of library materials to serve people who are housebound. Also the Bookstart service where materials are gifted to babies and pre-school children in the city via health workers and schools and nurseries for under 5s.
- Which are the modern library facilities near the three earmarked for closure?
The City has a strong network of libraries and all have good public transport routes to enable access. Following the consultation, should closures be agreed, all locations have alternative modern libraries within a mile that people can use. Strelley Road Library is the nearest library to Aspley Library, Hyson Green Library in the Mary Potter Centre is the nearest to Radford Lenton Library and Bulwell Riverside Library is closest to Basford Library.
- Aren’t places like Radford which has already lost its leisure centre being unfairly targeted for cuts and left with scant community facilities?
We have looked at a range of factors to ensure libraries being proposed for closure have been selected objectively. We welcome all city residents’ views and opinions as part of the consultation, particularly those in the potentially affected areas.
- How come Sherwood is getting a new library when three libraries are earmarked for closure?
Current closure proposals have been based on a number of criteria which includes cost, usage, flexibility for longer term service adaptation, community needs, community impact and location of our other nearby libraries. Based on this criteria, Sherwood Library is not included in the proposals and is currently part of a wider redevelopment underway where the cost of this re-provision is being funded by a developer. The re-provided library when complete will be very adaptable and modern providing a facility in an ideal housing and retail development to serve this area of the City for a number of years
- Q: Are you taking into consideration the disproportionate impact the Coronavirus Pandemic had on declining library visits since 2020? And what usage statistics have you looked at as part of the library needs assessment?
The huge and significant impact the Coronavirus Pandemic has had on library visitor numbers has been factored into our Library Needs Assessment (LNA) review and statistical analysis. Data used to look at library use and performance does not include library use figures during the pandemic as we recognise these don’t reflect typical usage numbers or usage patterns.
The data for library usage covers a number of factors including visits, active users, issues/loans, take up of computer hours and Wi-Fi access and which sites our users borrow from. The data used in the assessment, for the most recent comparisons, is for the financial year 2019/20.
Due to the pandemic, libraries were closed to the public on 20 March 2020 and therefore no data was collected for the 11 days up until 31st March 2020 however, data for the past 5 years (2015/16 – 2019/20) has been taken into account when assessing patterns of usage across all sites and not just a single year.