Thousands of people have given their views on the draft strategy for transforming Hampshire County Council’s Library Service.
In the first three weeks of the 11-week consultation, the County Council has received more than 5,700 online and paper responses.
Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson said: “We’re very pleased that the consultation on our draft Library Strategy has sparked such strong interest, and we’re encouraging more people to have their say. All feedback is valuable and will be used to inform the final outcome, as no decisions have been made yet.
“One of the proposals in the draft strategy is to place our libraries into four tiers based on how busy they are, to provide a standardised approach to services. However, there have been some inaccurate reports in the media that all Tier 3 libraries – smaller libraries in smaller communities – will close or be transferred to local community groups. This is not true. Some Tier 3 libraries may close or be transferred, but it’s important to stress that at this early stage, no decisions have been made. At the moment, we are simply asking residents how libraries should be categorised, and what the criteria should be to help inform any future reviews. We would consult about specific proposals before any changes were made.
“Nationally, the public sector faces considerable financial challenges with less money coming from central Government. Hampshire is no different – with the County Council’s grant having been more than halved in recent years. This has affected budgets for all services, including libraries, and we are looking at estimated savings to the Library Service of £1.7 million by 2020. Despite this, we are still looking to invest £500,000 every year, for four years, to make libraries modern and vibrant, and using new digital technology such as self-service book borrowing.
“We are also looking to make libraries more sustainable to meet residents’ demands in future, reduce costs to the taxpayer and generate more income by introducing cafés where appropriate, or by sharing buildings and their costs with other partner organisations.”
The draft Library Strategy and the consultation questionnaire are available to complete via the County Council’s webpages at www.hants.gov.uk/library, until 16 January, 2016. They are also available in hard copy from all Hampshire libraries and mobile library stops. A telephone survey of randomly-selected Hampshire residents will also be undertaken before Christmas to seek feedback on the proposals.