Dispatch district councillor admits difficult decisions lie ahead over future of Nottingham's libraries

A Bulwell councillor says she is ‘committed to having a strong, professionally staffed library service’ in Nottingham.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:07 pm

But Coun Eunice Campbell-Clarke (Lab), who represents Bulwell Forest, warned that Nottingham City Council had some ‘difficult decisions to make’ in order to deal with the current financial situation the authority faces.

Draft proposals for consultation regarding the modernisation of Nottingham City’s library service are set to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s executive board on January 18.

The draft proposals are being put forward in light of the council’s difficult financial situation and include consideration of closing the libraries at Basford, Radford Lenton Library and Aspley, although the latter could become a distribution point for home library service, Bookstart, Nottingham Performing Arts Library Service and mobile/outreach services.

Coun Eunice Campbell-Clarke said she was committed to a strong library service but difficult decisions would have to be made

Also being put forward for consultation are proposals for delivering the service differently, including sharing spaces across services and partners and improvements to the online resources already available.

The proposals build on the views put forward in a previous consultation on the service, and follows nine months to bring together a wide range of local and national data, cost analysis and usage information, alongside looking at national best practice around service delivery.

A comprehensive report has now been completed which recognises that the way people are using libraries has changed dramatically but that libraries still have an important role to play in supporting the city and its communities.

However, the report highlights that the service in Nottingham has relatively high costs when compared to other similar cities and that there are opportunities to modernise the service as well as making it more efficient.

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This includes building on the service’s strong digital offer now in place, alongside working in partnership with partners, groups and organisations to help shape future service needs, while taking into account that many communities have very different needs and requirements from its library provision.

The report recognises savings need to be found and that the service needs to be more financially sustainable, operating as efficiently as possible.

In last year’s budget, an expected saving of £233,000 was anticipated from the service spread over the next few years, with a further £39,400 savings proposed as part of this year’s budget consultations.

The service has already completed a restructure achieving savings of £138,000, with the current proposals contributing a further £134,000 towards the savings target.

Coun Campbell-Clark, said: “We have had a strong track record for investing in our library service but our current financial situation means we have some difficult decisions to make.

“We commissioned research which makes it clear that as well as making savings to ensure we have a service that is financially sustainable, we need to adapt our libraries so they meet the needs of the future.

“The pandemic has served to accelerate a move to online library resources in Nottingham as elsewhere and so while we know that libraries are often well-loved community resources, sadly some are under-used as people’s habits change.

“We wouldn’t choose to close down community libraries, but I remain committed to having a strong, professionally staffed library service that can provide support, give guidance and enable all our residents to access books, digital resources, provide learning, and development opportunities.

"If the proposals are taken forward, I would encourage people to get involved in the consultation and give us their views and opinions around whether what we are proposing will provide the future library service we need in Nottingham.”

If the recommendations in the report are agreed by executive board, a 12-week public consultation will take place from the end of January until May.