Ensuring that residents are aware of the services and support on offer through the library service is fundamental to our plans for the future.
We will deliver professional, targeted, marketing campaigns to a range of audiences. Our communications will be dynamic and creative, with a local focus promoting the service offer to existing users, new audiences, and the wider community in a local area.
Our physical library spaces are a vital part of how we deliver library services, and we are committed to the continued operation of all our libraries across the county. We will plan our physical spaces to ensure they are high quality, welcoming and as inclusive as possible and reflect the needs of all our residents.
Our four main libraries are Chelmsford, Harlow, Basildon, and Colchester, and these will continue to be our flagship libraries. We will develop a plan to focus on these and the other libraries across the county to ensure that as many communities as possible benefit from improvements to the libraries local to them.
We will consider whether our libraries are in the right locations for our residents today and in the future. We will engage with housing developments and growth areas across the county to ensure support and contributions for a library service is considered for these new communities.
Our technology and digital infrastructure are key components of how we deliver a modern library service. From free access to computers and IT in our libraries to the new digital offer, we recognise the importance in developing this aspect of our library service. As society becomes ever more digital, poor internet and Wi-Fi connection is no longer acceptable; instead, stable, fast access is essential for ensuring real benefits for work, education, and communication. We already have a Wi-Fi improvement programme for all libraries, and we will continue to improve our technological offer, such as providing more mobile devices for our residents and staff to use, along with improved printing facilities.
To improve our communications and infrastructure, we will:
- improve our buildings - We will develop a planned programme of building improvements. We will consider upgrade and cosmetic improvements, how spaces are currently used, opportunities to use them differently and the potential to generate additional income from our estate.
- seek to reduce our carbon footprint - In line with our commitments to become a net-zero organisation, we will review the energy efficiency and environmental impact of our library buildings. Working with other parts of the organisation and our partners, we will develop a long-term plan for environmentally sustainable libraries.
- develop our mobile and outreach service - This could include promoting health and wellbeing initiatives, offering wider skills for adults, and reviewing opportunities for supporting priorities such as literacy and wider council objectives.
- engage better with new and existing users - We will develop a communications strategy to improve two-way communication with our customers locally. We will promote the range of services and activities on offer at different locations and highlight events and promotions relevant in particular neighbourhoods. We will target communications at appropriate times to encourage people to participate in library events and join their local library.
- improve communications with staff and volunteers - With a dispersed workforce, it is vital to keep people informed about what is happening across the service. We will explore the practical tools we can use and working practices we can adopt to ensure our staff and volunteers are always in the loop.
- develop an online platform - We will develop our online service to ensure it is high quality, welcoming and inclusive. Our digital library will have a more user-friendly interface and enhanced functionality, such as online bookings for special events and activities. It will also offer a more personalised service, including bespoke recommendations based on borrowing habits.
- update the printing services offered to customers - We will introduce Wi-Fi and self-service printing for customers to reduce the need for expensive home printing, bringing environmental benefits.
- roll out better mobile technology for staff and volunteers - We will provide staff and volunteers with mobile devices so that they can work more flexibly when dealing with customers, or when working in the community. Other colleagues will also be able to work in our buildings when they are out and about or not based in their usual workplace.
"Good stock of books and a very good request service." - Library customer
"My library card is my passport to follow courses in subjects that I always hoped to find time to pursue. I'm interested in the Latin names for garden plants, so chose a free course in Beginner's Latin." - Library customer
“Helpful catalogue so I can find the books I want” - Library customer
"We didn’t have much money and being able to have somewhere free to take them was invaluable, as well as being able to share books that I couldn’t afford. It greatly improved my mental health." - Library customer
"Good to meet other people. I feel [the Baby Book workshop] has done me a lot of good also. Thank you!" - Dunmow Library workshop participant.
“I enjoy working as a volunteer because I like helping customers and interacting with people” - Galina, Volunteer at Braintree Library