Derbyshire County Council has announced its Libraries For Derbyshire draft plan, detailing challenges to the public library service and a preferred option for the future.
At the moment Derbyshire County Council runs 45 libraries, and two mobile library vehicles, and unlike other councils has managed to avoid any closures over recent years. They have also invested in replacement libraries in South Normanton, Heanor, and Ashbourne with another due to open soon in Glossop, and plans for a replacement library in Belper in the works. However, the council needs to save £1.6m from the libraries budget by 2021, amid ongoing cuts to public sector budgets and increasing pressures on areas such as social care.
The draft plan, which will go to a meeting of the council’s Cabinet next week and if approved a 12-week consultation will begin in May to seek the public’s view on the proposal.
Libraries For Derbyshire sets out the challenged faced, as well as describing options considered such as closures or outsourcing the service. It also includes the preferred option for the future, through handing the running of 20 libraries to local community groups, interested parties or agencies.
The proposal, which the council describes as innovative, is a model which has been used and favoured by other councils with around 12% of public libraries now run this way in Great Britain. Success has been mixed – early adopter Buckinghamshire County Council has said visitor figures in one volunteer-run library is up 30% since the move, while in Sheffield visitor figures dropped.
Derby City Council is among those moving to the model with 10 of its 15 libraries moving into the hands of local charity Direct Help and Advice (DHA), with Sinfin Library due to open in May as the first under the new agreement.
Derbyshire County Council say community-managed libraries would receive grant funding from the council for up to four years and people staffing them would receive full training and on-going professional support. They also list out other changes which would be needed to make the budget target including reduced opening hours and changes to the mobile library service with a view to moving this too to community-management.
You can read more about the draft plan and how it will move forward on Derbyshire County Council’s website.