Council to ask non-users about views on Swindon's libraries
5:30am Wednesday 30th July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
PLANS are under way to launch a town-wide consultation into the future of the library services in Swindon.
The aim of the survey will be to find out what people think the shape of any changes to the service should take, in the face of budget pressures.
It will follow on from a consultation earlier this year, which the council said was aimed predominantly at library users.
There were more than 1,500 responses to that, the majority of which were in support of keeping libraries open.
However, council leaders are keen to collect the views of everyone before any decision is made.
Keith Williams (Con, Shaw), the cabinet member for leisure services, said: “There was a good response to the first consultation but it is important we get the views of everyone, not just the library users.
“If you ask users then unsurprisingly they will come out in support of the libraries. There are budget pressures across the council now so it is important we get the views of everyone before any decisions are taken.
“There are lots of options open to us. With GLL taking over the running of the Link Centre there is an option to open the library for longer while there may be some tough choices to make elsewhere.”
Coun Williams said the consultation would also take into account changes in the way people use libraries.
He said: “A large percentage of book purchases are e-books now, so we have to look at that. It may be controversial but it may be the case that providing e-books for 24 hours a day is more viable than keeping a building open for 10 hours.
“That said, I am fully aware that many people still use actual books – I do when I’m on holiday.”
However, there have been some criticism of the plans. Shirley Burnham, of the Save Old Town Library Group, said the first consultation needed to be considered.
She said: “That consultation was town-wide as I understood it. It was online for anyone to answer so they did not need to go down to the library.
“I think the first should be given the original weight it was intended when they launched it.
“Providing books is not the only thing that libraries are used for. At the Old Town Library we have, in the term time, a storytime which is regularly patronised by at least 20 people, half of them children.
“However, we are pleased for the reprieve.”
Labour shadow lead for leisure services, Jim Robbins (Mannington and Western), said the first consultation should not be discounted but it was important to hear the views of all residents.
He said: “The key outcome I would like to see is a really strong library service which is accessible to everyone.
“We are very lucky in Swindon with all the libraries we have so I would like to see them protected but we all know the financial situation. We need to find a way of incorporating other services into the libraries so we are getting the best value for money.”
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