Meeting in Borehamwood to discuss future of library service

Borehamwood Times: The consultation in progress The consultation in progress

Balancing the need to make savings with keeping the customer satisfied is the challenge facing libraries in the county.

Hertfordshire County Council is seeking the views of the public to help it develop a ten year strategy to ensure libraries continue to provide a modern and relevant service.

Councillors, library staff and council officers were at 96 Shenley Road in Borehamwood yesterday in the ninth of ten public meetings held across the county.

Head of libraries, culture and learning Andrew Bignell opened the meeting by describing the current state of the service in Hertfordshire.

Mr Bignell said the main challenge facing the library service was keeping up a high standard of service while coping with financial pressures.

Since 2011, the library service has made £3million of savings through reducing opening hours and cutting mobile libraries.

This led to 20 per cent fewer visits in 2012, a fact which Mr Bignell attributed to customers not knowing when the library was open. However he said there were signs the numbers were beginning to increase.

He said: “The challenge we have is meeting the changing needs of the customers who want us to be open and available and provide a modern service.

“The danger we have while deciding strategy is we take a short term decision based on next year’s budgets. We need to be future facing.

“It is important to get the community involved and get as wide a view as possible from users and non users about what they want the service to look like.”

Members of the public split into groups to answer questions about the purpose of libraries in the community, what opportunities there were for working in partnership with other services, and what should modern libraries deliver.

Residents were adamant about the need to boost literacy and maintain the cultural life of the town.

They discussed ways of bringing income into Borehamwood library through offering spaces to community groups such as the University of the Third Age, hosting lectures and holding exhibitions.

They also suggested using the library to temporarily house the soon to be demolished Ark Theatre.

There were concerns about balancing the needs of readers with those taking advantage of the free Wifi, with people complaining about noisy library users using mobiles or talking on Skype.

More than 10,000 people have already responded to the consultation. The questionnaire can be found here

The consultation runs until December 31 and the results will help to shape a new library strategy to be published in spring 2014.

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