Future Libraries

Last Friday, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Local Government Group released a joint report on the future of libraries – ‘Future Libraries: Change, options and how to get there’. The report highlights some of the innovative ways that local authorities are modernising library services.

You may remember that the Museums Libraries and Archives Council have previously praised Barnet’s strategic library review, describing it as ‘impressive’. So it is no surprise that much of what is recommended in the joint report mirrors what we plan to do in Barnet.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • running library services with other council or community services
  • sharing back office costs with neighbouring boroughs
  • partnering with the private and third sectors
  • involving the local community with the running of local library services.

We plan to improve library based access to other council services and run two link libraries – Grahame Park and Child’s Hill – integrating library services within other public services.

We are in discussion with a neighbouring borough to share library support services and costs

During the public consultation the idea of providing library services from shops was discussed, and while this idea was ridiculed by some, it is now recommended by the report.

We have also given the community the opportunity to come up with ideas for running community library services in Friern Barnet and Hampstead Garden Suburb.

You can read more about the joint report on the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s website.

 

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Library strategy approved, community ideas welcome

Back on 26 July, Cabinet agreed our plans for the Library service.

The objectives of the new library strategy are to:

  • increase reading, literacy and learning opportunities for children
  • promote reading and learning opportunities for adults
  • engage with communities and offer improved community spaces, access and resources
  • provide easier access to wider world of knowledge and information.

The main highlights are –

  • spending an extra £10,000 per year on more books
  • offering longer opening hours
  • giving a better online service
  • setting up new schemes to reach those with low levels of literacy
  • making sure every building is accessible and fit for purpose
  • merging back offices with one of our neighbours.

The strategy aims to move Friern Barnet Library and North Finchley Library in to the artsdepot to create a new landmark library. Officers will now commence detailed negotiations with artsdepot trust. We also proposed working with the Garden Suburb Institute to move the Hampstead Garden Library into their premises, though we will also consider any community proposals which come forward.

Cabinet gave community groups until the 31 October to come forward with community ideas about how they can carry on running a community library facility in their areas. Libraries services wouldn’t have to be run from the same location but would need to be run at a low cost to the council.

We listened when the community said they wanted a library service based on literary and learning and we will listen to the community’s ideas for their local library services.

We will seriously consider the proposals we receive for running Friern Barnet and Hampstead Garden Suburb libraries and welcome the contribution from local people. If you have a proposal please email Tom Pike, Head of Libraries. Tom is on leave for the next couple of weeks but will respond on his return.

More about libraries

As I said recently in the Barnet Times, the Library Review was never going to be universally popular. This is despite the extra £10,000 per year we will spend on books, the longer opening hours our libraries will have, the new libraries we are building, the commitment to sign up every school child to the library service, the modernisation of all our libraries, and our pledge to put literacy at the heart of everything we do.

In the last couple of weeks there have been a couple of protests outside the Friern Barnet library.

So no one is any doubt, I thought it would be helpful to outline our plans for this library. Under our strategy, Friern Barnet library will move, and merge with the North Finchley library. All the services currently provided at the Friern Barnet site will be provided at the artsdepot. The library at the artsdepot will be one of our largest; it will be a landmark library that specialises in the arts. It will hold more stock, have longer opening hours, will open on Sundays, and have extra study space and facilities.

Sadly, no change is not an option but I believe the strategy is a step in the right direction that will provide benefits for the whole of Barnet.

The second stage of the Library Strategy Consultation closes on 13 June, so there is still time to have your voice heard.