A meeting was held this afternoon at County Hall with Cllr Judith Heathcoat, Cabinet Member for Libraries, John Jackson, Director of Social and Community Services, Jillian Southwell from the County Library Service, and Claire Phillips from the Policy Directorate. Representatives from Headington were:
- Tanya Field (Headington Action)
- Tony Joyce (CCOHRA)
- Sarah Eddie and Lynda Hayward (Save Headington Library)
- Cllr Roy Darke
- Cllr Ruth Wilkinson
- Fiona Mackenzie ACA (accountant)
A huge amount of information has been released by the County recently including:
- an initial service and community impact assessment
- the business strategy for the Directorate of Social and Community Services 2011/12 – 2014/15 (see the last four pages)
- and book issues for all the County libraries in 2009-10
The Director confirmed that a 23% reduction needed to be made from the Library Service budget, a reduction of £2m from the current total of £8.7m, by 2014/15.
The implementation of any discontinuation of funding to libraries would take place at the end of December 2011.
The request for a meeting with the Director and Cabinet Member by the above group would be considered by the County Council as an expression of interest in looking at all options in keeping library services going in Headington, in their current or an alternative form.
The decision of whether to approve bids for transition funding for community library projects is likely to slip to the end of June or beginning of July, details will follow.
The County had considered other options, including a reduction across the board for all county libraries (which would result in a reduction of opening hours and staff costs by 30%) and had discussed the possibility of outsourcing all its services with a UK provider, but neither had proved viable. Discussions on outsourcing are currently underway with a US provider.
The County has not yet released its guidance to community groups on what service level agreements can be offered by the County Library Service as buy-ins by community libraries. Professional services might include access to the library management system and bookstock, infrastructure support and training of volunteer staff. This will be released by the end of this month.
It is likely that bids for transition funding from Big Society libraries would include the cost of installing self-issue systems but criteria are to be decided.
Financial questions are being sent to the Director by our accountant and he will respond as soon as he can.
There was an emphasis by County on ensuring that the funded library hubs would be spread geographically. One of the most significant factors taken into account when selecting which libraries would be retained or cut appeared to be travel time. Another was the proximity of libraries to shopping areas. There was also a mention of “community drop off points” which are under consideration to those areas where library services would be cut.
The County is preparing a local needs analysis for each area and this will give us more information about what each area is like in terms of nos. children on free school meals, nos. people not in employment, education or training etc. etc.
Significant points that were raised included:
- · The possibility of employing volunteers alongside library staff
- · The need to examine current book provision in school libraries
- · The need to take into account the value of early years reading support
- · The level of educational attainment in library catchment areas
Most importantly, it was emphasised that the timescales were unattainable for an effective business case to be built up for the biggest libraries in the existing schedule. This point was understood and taken away for further consideration.
A meeting is being scheduled for the end of March. This will allow the County time to send out guidance and local needs assessments, and will give the group more time to analyse the information, learn about different types of social enterprises and how community libraries can be run, and work out alternative ways in which the County can make the savings without closing libraries.