by Tom McBeth
Peterborough City Council today approved new proposals aimed at cutting costs across the library service in the city.
Following a year-long public consultation, with input from over 5,000 local residents, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet has approved proposals to cut staffed hours in all local libraries and implement a ‘self-service’ system.
60% of those who took part in the consultation were in favour of the new proposals.
The current service will be extended from books, newspapers and magazines, DVDs, free internet access via public computers and events and activities for children and families, to include 24/7 access to digital services online including e-books, e-audio and information databases.
According to management information held by Vivacity, 90% of book loans in Peterborough’s libraries are already done through self-service with 51% of library members currently borrow books on a regular basis and 49% using the library for the activities.
The service, which has an annual running cost of over £1.5million, will save the council in the region of £300,000 each year whilst providing public access for “50% more hours each week”.
Despite these savings, none of the ten libraries in the city will be closing.
The savings will go towards filling the £45million lost from Peterborough City Council’s budget last year.
In response to criticism that the new service would mean a loss of jobs, the council said, “We felt sure libraries were closing, but have ended up delivering an improved service
“The council has done all it can to protect jobs and services, but we express sympathy for anyone losing their jobs”.
The council also addressed concerns relating to safety of an unstaffed service, said, “The number of [public] responses shows how much local people value their libraries and the new service responds to local need, not a one-size fits all model.”
Following the decision, councillors praising the consultation and outcome said, “It is an extremely good outcome that the public can use library services when they want.”
She also said that they felt that the council had “managed the whole thing very responsibly.”