Volunteers could open new chapter for libraries
VOLUNTEER-led libraries could be the face of Swindon’s services in the future depending on the results from the council’s upcoming consultation.
In December, Swindon Council will be launching a 12-week consultation into the borough’s library strategy for its 16 libraries after cabinet members approved plans at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to slash £300,000 from its £2.9m library budget.
The consultation will be looking into which facilities at the libraries are most important to residents with the intention of making the service more cost effective and modern. The council has to make savings of £48m in three years.
A range of options are being proposed to residents so they can voice their views on what they use the library for. No buildings will close unless there is overwhelming support from the residents to shut them down but many could be taken over by their communities.
Walcott Library has been entirely run by volunteers for four years. Its manager Deborah Estarbrook said the service has been working really well and appealed for more volunteers to step forward to help their local library.
“We aren’t trained but we help people with the computers and with general support around the library,” said Deborah. “It’s reassuring to know someone from the council is at the other end of the phone to help us if we need it.”
Councillor Keith Williams, cabinet member for highways strategic transport and leisure, said libraries needed to meet modern-day demands. “We need to balance the budget. The financial situation the council finds itself in means we have to look at options. We want to hear what people want from their library services. A lot of people don’t go to libraries to read books. They go to use the technology or rent a DVD. Libraries have to move with the moment.”
One option is rather than hosting a mobile library, to have a library service at doctors’ surgeries. He said compared to other local authorities Swindon has a lot of libraries for the amount of people they serve with 16 buildings catering for around 210,000 residents. In Wiltshire they have around 29 libraries for a population of 470,981.
“Libraries are really important to the whole community,” said Coun Montaut.
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