Transforming Libraries and Cultural Services Surrey Council Consultation

Transforming Libraries and Cultural Services

Surrey Council Consultation

 

If, like us, you are a regular user of your local library you would have reacted with dismay to the news that Surrey County Council have launched a consultation into its Libraries and Cultural Services.

There is an online survey available which is only open till the 4th of January – please do participate and ensure your voice is heard!

I’ve personally gone through the survey (6 pages) and to me the questions are open to interpretation in different ways and haven’t been written or designed with ‘User Friendliness’ in mind – perhaps intentionally?

For example:

“To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following principle: Libraries and cultural services are most effective and efficient when they work in partnership with the public, voluntary and community and private sectors, including through the creation of shared spaces.

Strongly agree
Agree
Neither agree nor disagree
Disagree
Strongly disagree
No opinion”

On the face of it this seems like a good thing but reading between the lines the inclusion of “including through the creation of shared spaces…” suggests to me this would lead to local closures and subsequent merging of services in central locations, almost certainly to the detriment of smaller services like our very own and much loved Hersham Library.

It then asks you to scale what impact this principle would have on you (which I found unclear) using the following measures:

Highly positive
Positive
No impact
Negative
Highly negative
Not sure

If you do go through the survey please be fully aware of how you answer and be circumspect in the way you answer the question though there are also a number of free text boxes where you can clearly state your case!

In the context of this consultation I recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to Surrey County Council to ask for Library usage statistics across the county.

I will publish the County wide data in full in due course but wanted to concentrate on the libraries local to us here in Hersham:

Cobham, Dittons, Esher, Hersham, Molesey, Walton and Weybridge.

As you can see from the figures relating to Visits and Loans/Renewals from January 2016 to now:

Hersham Library has the second lowest number of Visits

And has the lowest number of Loans/Renewals.

 

Looking longer term from April 2013 the pattern is the same:

Looking in more detail at the usage of Hersham Library since April 2013 and there has been a fairly consistent decline in usage.

There was an uptick during Q1 this year (the latest figures available) – I will continue to request more recent data and will update the page accordingly when it becomes available.

 

In the meantime please, please make use of your local library!

Looking at the data above there is a clear threat that these services will be merged into what Surrey County Council are calling ‘shared spaces’.

I know local Councillors (in all regions) will strongly and robustly oppose any reduction in their local community library service but we as residents can also give a huge amount of support!

What do Surrey County Council have to say on “Transforming Libraries and Cultural Services in Surrey”?

“Libraries and cultural services are an integral part of community life across Surrey and sit at the heart of lifelong learning. We know that to sustain our libraries and cultural services into the future, with the resources that we have, we need to think differently and creatively about how those services are provided.

To do this, we are asking for your views on the following five principles that form a strategy which we believe could inform proposals for transforming libraries and cultural services in Surrey:

1. Libraries and cultural services provide and enable opportunities for everyone to learn, access information, acquire new skills, improve literacy and be involved in their communities.

2. There is a focus on the wellbeing and strengthening of communities, particularly the most vulnerable, to enable them to be resilient.

3. Libraries and cultural services are most effective and efficient when they work in partnership with the public, voluntary, community and private sectors, including through the creation of shared spaces.

4. New technologies, including digital, enable libraries and cultural services to reach new audiences, and existing audiences in new ways, and offer 24/7 access.

5. Volunteers are crucial community advocates and assets in libraries and cultural services, who also gain valuable skills and relationships through the work they do.

Our intention is to develop proposals that deliver against this strategy and create libraries and cultural services that are fit for the future and sustainable in the long term. It is also our intention to get close to the national average spend of county councils on library services.

Where are we now?

In Surrey, there are 52 libraries based across the county including 10 Community Partnered Libraries (CPLs). The top 18 libraries account for 65% of the total visits, and 18 others for only 11.6% of business. Some libraries are co-located with other services, such as the recently reopened Merstham Library, where we have seen a 300% increase in library membership.

The digital library offer is valued by many residents, with 1.32 million items borrowed using the online catalogue. Residents, particularly vulnerable ones, tell us they value the access to public computers and Wi-Fi which libraries provide.

Volunteering is a strong feature of Surrey libraries. 680 volunteers give 21,000 hours per annum.

Our broader cultural services offer covers arts, a music service, heritage and archaeology, adult and community learning and the registration and citizenship service.”

The Surrey County Council consultation into Transforming Libraries and Cultural Services in Surrey is part of their wider program of consultations into the following areas:

Family Resilience: Children’s Centres
Concessionary bus travel
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
Libraries and Cultural Services
Community Recycling Centres

Please remember to have your say before the consultation closes on January the 4th – you can find the survey here:

https://www.surreysays.co.uk/legal-and-democratic-services/libraries/consultation/intro/

 

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