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Consultation green light on 'libraries for Derbyshire' plan

Residents will have the opportunity to have their say on innovative new plans for Derbyshire’s library service and help to shape its future when a consultation launches next month.
Derbyshire County Council unveiled its proposed Derbyshire Public Library Service Strategy ‘Libraries for Derbyshire’ last week, setting out its commitment to the library service and outlining proposals to secure its future. 
The council’s Cabinet this week (Thursday 5 April) agreed to a consultation which will be launched on Monday 7 May.
Derbyshire residents are being encouraged to take part, give their views and make suggestions during the consultation, which will run for 12 weeks.
A questionnaire will be launched on Monday 7 May, with people being able to access this via the county council’s website, with paper copies also available in county libraries.
There will also be a variety of ways for people to give their views and take part in shaping the service, including drop-in sessions at some libraries and focus groups for more in-depth discussion around the plans.
Detailed plans will be released shortly on specific consultation events.
Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism Councillor Barry Lewis said: “We are huge advocates for public libraries and know how important they are to our local communities.
“We’ve made it very clear that we’re committed to keeping libraries open and we all need to work together to secure their future.
“We’re putting forward a strong proposal which we are confident will see all 45 libraries and our two mobile libraries survive and thrive, having already ruled out some routes taken by other authorities, including outsourcing or wholesale closure.
“The fact is that we have to consider making changes as it isn’t sustainable to carry on providing and funding the service the way we do now.
“It’s not all about savings though, as the way people use libraries is changing too, and the service needs to reflect this. In Derbyshire between 2012/13 and 2016/17 book issues in the county saw a reduction of 33% in line with the national trend, and there was a 21% decline in physical visits.
“People are making more use of technology and while there’s been a reduction in people visiting libraries, there’s been an increase in remote use of our digital resources, such as ebooks, eMagazines and accessing online newspapers.”
Councillor Lewis added: “What is important now is that we hear what our residents have to say and listen to their views. I urge everyone with an interest in the future of Derbyshire libraries to get involved and have their say. 
“We’re open to new suggestions as well as hearing what people think of our preferred plan. That’s what the consultation is all about.”
The council’s preferred option would see 25 libraries remaining under council control and 20 libraries being taken over and managed by local community groups, interested parties or agencies.
The library service is proposing using a tiered approach to providing its services and allocating resources in the future.
As part of the tiering system, it has ranked all 45 libraries in terms of their performance, e.g. number of books issued, visits, use of computers as well as considering evidence of need in the local area.
Four tiers have been created, and it is proposed, subject to consultation, that libraries falling into tier four would be transferred to community management.
Community-managed libraries would receive grant funding from the council for up to four years and people running them would receive full training and on-going professional support.
As well as setting out the preferred option for libraries, the library service strategy report states that further changes would still be needed to achieve agreed savings of £1.6m by 2021.
Proposed changes would include reducing opening hours at council-run libraries at quieter times and changing the way the mobile library service is run, with a view to this service being transferred to community management.
The report also highlights that the council is also looking at increasing its use of new technology, encouraging greater use of self-service facilities and could consider implementing `Smart Libraries’, which people can access using a card and PIN. These services could mitigate the proposed reduction in opening hours.
The council is proposing that the following 20 libraries are transferred to community management, subject to consultation: Borrowash, Etwall, Clowne, Duffield, Creswell, Brimington, Whaley Bridge, Killamarsh, Melbourne, Hadfield, Holmewood, Gamesley, Whitwell, Wingerworth, Pinxton, Hayfield, Tideswell, Old Whittington, Somercotes and Woodville
• Information on all 20 libraries to be considered for community management can be found in the Cabinet report which is on the council’s website –  5/4/18 Cabinet – item 10 `Public Library Service Strategy’