Changes to the mobile library service and help for communities that want to set up their own libraries have been approved. A new mobile library timetable will take effect from 3 April 2018.
Essex County Council’s Cabinet agreed the changes on 23 January after hearing the results of public consultation on the proposals.
In the consultation, six community groups and organisations expressed a firm interest in hosting a volunteer-run community library. Over 50 other sites were suggested and 124 consultees expressed an interest in helping set up and maintain new community libraries.
Proposed new criteria for running mobile libraries were broadly supported:
However, respondents did not agree with a proposal to remove stops that are less than two miles from a library building. In response, Cabinet reduced the distance limit to 1.5 miles to keep more stops.
Respondents, 75% of whom are regular mobile library users, were also concerned about the impact of changes on elderly and disabled users in particular. Before the new timetable is introduced, mobile library users who attend a stop will be asked to comment on proposed locations for merged stops. Essex Libraries staff will talk to care homes and remote places the library vehicles cannot reach about alternative options for bringing library services to their residents.
Anyone unable to access a library or mobile library can sign up for the Home Library Service or a Friends and Family card, so other people can bring books to them at home.
The changes are being made because use of mobile libraries has nearly halved since 2011 and seven of the nine vehicles are at the end of their working lives. The new service will be delivered by the two remaining vehicles, which are newer, larger and better equipped. The current timetable remains in force until April.