This is a strategy for the provision of library services in Essex over the next five years, from 2019/20 to 2023/24. This document is a draft version, published for public consultation. Essex County Council will consider responses to the consultation and may amend the strategy before agreeing the final version.
- Our vision and ambition for library services
- What Essex people say
- Why do we need a new strategy?
- Our priorities
- Our core offer and tiered approach
- Our eLibrary
- Opening hours and access
- Our people
- What does good look like?
by Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member for Customer and Corporate
I am incredibly proud of the public library service in Essex and the employees and volunteers who deliver it. Library services play a unique role in our society as providers of reading, learning, digital access and culture, and as safe community spaces.
Library services have successfully adapted before to changing demands and customer needs. But now, with advances in technology and evolving customer expectations, they need to adapt even further. We must seize the opportunities presented by technology and embrace the changing demands of service users.
The facts and figures are stark.
Use of libraries has slumped over the last six years – book borrowing has almost halved, fewer than one in five Essex residents are active library users and fewer people now use the public computers in libraries. We need to reimagine the service to make it relevant to people’s lives, now and in the future, and financially sustainable.
Earlier this year, we asked the people of Essex what their priorities for future libraries were. Books and reading were top of their list, so this strategy listens to this and is about books and library services, not buildings.
Our vision is that we will have a 21st century library service that is inclusive and vibrant, one that offers a consistently good customer experience, embraces digital technology and enables all users to learn, engage and remain connected to their communities. We are ambitious in our thinking; we will explore the opportunities technology offers and be open to new and creative ideas.
We want to support our employees and volunteers to work in different ways and encourage communities and partners to get involved.
But there are challenges ahead. We need to spend taxpayers’ money wisely. We need to be innovative and resourceful, and work with the people of Essex to make the best of the resources we have.
Essex has one of the largest networks of libraries in the country. But it is irresponsible to spend taxpayers money on keeping poorly used buildings open when we could spend it on improving the library services that people do use and need whilst still maintaining a network of well-located libraries throughout Essex.
So, our goal is to have a smaller number of libraries more effectively focused on meeting the needs of communities. We propose placing library services into four tiers based on needs across the county and closing libraries where they are not required - while still providing a comprehensive library service through the network, supported by our eLibrary, and mobile and home library services.
This is a draft strategy; public opinion and engagement on these proposals is vital. I want to know what you think of these proposals before any decisions are made.
You can find out more about the strategy using the contents above or at a drop in at one of our libraries.
The public consultation on this strategy will be open for 12 weeks from 29 November 2018 to 20 February 2019, so please have your say by completing the consultation survey.
I look forward to finding out what you think about our proposals and creating a new library strategy that works for the people of Essex.