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Our core offer and tiered approach

The consultation is now closed. We are analysing your feedback and reports will be presented to Cabinet in summer 2019.

We propose to deliver a core offer through a range of physical and online services and take a tiered approach, based on evidence of need, to where we provide library services around the county in future. The needs assessment and the approach we have designed will enable Essex County Council to meet its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service to all who desire to use it.

Our core offer

Over time, the range of activities taking place in libraries has expanded so they are, in a way, offering many things to many people. We think it is useful to define our core, free service.

The core offer will be delivered through the following network:

  • libraries run by ECC alone or in partnership with other groups or organisations
  • eLibrary services
  • mobile libraries
  • home Library Service.

The future service will reflect the Universal Offers from libraries and the priorities our customers told us about as follows:

  • Books – we will make available for loan adults and children’s fiction, non-fiction and audio books. We will review the library stock and how we spend the book fund to keep our stock modern, fresh, available in a range of formats and responsive to customer needs and trends. We will use insight from customer usage and best practice to define stock levels for each service tier and to target our spending on books. We will provide access to the library catalogue to search available materials, request materials, make payments, renew loans.
  • eLibrary (includes online services) – customers can already access a wealth of eBooks and reference material, browse our catalogue, reserve items and book events online. We will explore new technologies and how we can optimise current technologies to make it easier for customers to access library materials anywhere, anytime from their own devices. We will continue to invest in eContent such as eBooks, eAudio and online reference resources.
  • Digital access – We will continue to offer public access computers – targeting the resources where there is the highest need – and help people to develop their digital skills and confidence.
  • People – employees and/or volunteers will help people access library services and materials, and sign-post services offered by partners. We will support employees and volunteers to develop new skills and work in different ways as library services evolve.
  • Activities – our employees will continue to deliver activities for the community that provide cultural and creative experiences such as Essex Book Festival. We will continue to provide story times, Rhyme Times for young families, Summer Reading Challenge and other activities for children. We will offer a safe space for community led activities such as knit and natter and local book groups
  • Learning – our employees will signpost learners to reference materials and our libraries will continue to provide space for study
  • Space and Place – we will seek investment to provide modern, fresh, flexible spaces where people can easily find the information and resources they need and which are welcoming and practical for a range of age groups and diverse needs.

To ensure best value and best fit of our future service, we will review non-core services, for example:

  • InterLibrary Loans
  • Performance sets (music scores and play sets)
  • Collecting Performance sets at any location
  • Newspapers - physical and digital
  • Access to online courses.

We will also encourage volunteers and other organisations to take on running as many activities as possible, to free up library employees to concentrate on delivering the core service in a professional and effective way.

A tiered approach

A tier model for Essex library services has been developed to ensure that a library service is provided in appropriate locations across the county according to the needs of the community.

This approach focuses on library services, not buildings. The tiered approach is based on evidence of need for a library service taking account of proximity to other libraries, usage, population, social deprivation and social isolation. Library services could be provided in different ways and from different spaces than we currently use. Over the life of the strategy the service offer could change, depending on changing needs, the level of community involvement and resources available.

We have conducted a countywide analysis of need for libraries, taking account of a combination of factors. We have used evidence from national and local sources such as the Office for National Statistics, the NHS and our library systems as well as feedback from users and staff. The Library Needs Assessment for 2018-19 is published as a supporting document to this strategy. It explains the approach in more detail and contains the evidence on which the tiers will be decided.

We will monitor these factors over time to check provision is still appropriate to needs.

Based on the needs assessment, we propose placing current libraries into four tiers, continuing to provide a public library service in tiers 1 and 2 and supporting community or other partner organisations to run library services in tier 3.

The criteria we will use to assess need for library services in each location are shown in the table below.

Library service needs assessment evaluation criteria

Criterion

Evaluation Criteria

Weighting of category

Location

Proximity to other libraries. Libraries clustered within two miles, by foot (Google Maps) of each other will be ranked at lower need.

30%

Usage

Active users

25%

Population

The number of libraries per head of population in each district. Based on current figures, not projected growth. Districts with more people per library ranked higher for need

25%

Deprivation

The deprivation level of the lower-layer super output area (LSOA) the library’s postcode is in, as identified in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD)

15%

Social Isolation (district)

Prevalence of new parents and % of residents over 65 as indicators of higher risk of social isolation)

5%

 Notes on evaluation criteria:

  • A local library was important to 66% of survey respondents; 39% of library users travel to more than one library (BMG Research countywide survey for Essex Libraries, 2018). 63% of Essex library users walk to the library (CIPFA survey of adult users, 2016); Travel distance by car or public transport has not been taken into account at this stage. This will be considered when making decisions on the future of individual libraries.
  • Prevalence of new parents is measured by fertility rates in each district. New parents and older people are recognised as being at risk of social isolation.

Over the next five years we will look to reduce the number of library buildings that we manage. We will maintain at least one tier 1 hub library in each district, in a main town with good transport links and shopping facilities, which is also likely to be a centre for employment. We will also maintain a network of tier 2 services and offer support to communities to run tier 3 services around the county.

We will seek partnerships to support ECC provision of library services in tier 2 and support community groups or other partners to run library services in tier 3. This creates the opportunity for library services in tier 3 to be run by people who live and work in the community and who best understand the unique needs of their community. We think local groups can deliver a service that ‘best fits’ local needs and helps to deliver reading learning and improve literacy in their community. See Community involvement for more about community-run libraries. 

Tier descriptions and alignment to our core offer

Tier number

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Explanation of tier

A comprehensive and efficient service provided by ECC to meet its statutory duty

A comprehensive and efficient service provided by ECC to meet its statutory duty

Not required to meet ECC’s statutory duty

Not required to meet ECC’s statutory duty

Brief description

Hub libraries, at least one per district/borough, may also rent/lease space to other service providers. Location normally in the main town but informed by local knowledge such as proximity to other facilities, transport and population size

Library services in areas where there is a need for a library, managed by ECC and delivered in partnership with the community or other partners

 

Library services where no library is needed in order to have a comprehensive and efficient network, but where ECC wishes to support the provision of library services run by a community organisation or other partners with ECC support

 

Locations with low evidence of need. A library service in these locations is not required as part of a comprehensive service

 

Management and support

Managed by ECC as part of our statutory provision of a comprehensive network

Managed by ECC as part of our statutory provision of a comprehensive network and delivered in partnership with the community or other partners

Run by the community or other partners with ECC support. If no suitable offer for a location is received and accepted within six months of Cabinet approval of the strategy, we intend to re-consult on the future of that library. This six month period may be extended to up to 12 months is the proposals have been received but not agreed - or if we believe that deliverable proposals are likely to be forthcoming in that period.

Not required as part of a comprehensive library service, although it may be possible for a community library to be run in these settlements, if a suitable proposal from a community or partner organisation is received

Library location

Main Town

Throughout Essex, where there is need for an ECC library

Throughout Essex, where ECC believes it is desirable to provide a library and a suitable partner has been found

n/a 

Opening times and smart library access

Minimum 40 staffed hours per week, Monday to Saturday. plus smart library (self- service) where viable.  We will look to extend opening hours, including into the evening if this can be resourced by volunteers or can be made affordable

Typically 16-32 hours per week plus smart library (self-service) where viable.  We will look to extend opening hours, including into the evening if this can be resourced by volunteers or can be made affordable

To be agreed in partnership

 n/a

Range of books and stock

Wide range of stock

Mid range of stock with opportunity to search and request stock from other libraries

Mid - Low, to be agreed in partnership

 n/a

Digital access (computers and advice)

Yes

Yes

No

 n/a

People

Majority ECC employees, with volunteer support

A mix of ECC employees and community volunteers

To be agreed in partnership but with majority community volunteers

 n/a

Activities

A high level of activities promoted by ECC

 

Some ECC activities with opportunity for community to participate

 

Some opportunity for ECC activities but activities will mainly depend on community provision 

 n/a

Space and place

Space for reading, study and activities in a town centre location

Space for reading and study, typically in a shared, accessible location; space for activities may be in the library space or elsewhere in the vicinity

To be agreed with partner

 n/a

 The tables below place each of the 74 libraries into one of the four tiers, using the criteria described above.  

Essex Libraries in Basildon district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Basildon

1

Billericay

1

Fryerns

4

Laindon

2

Pitsea

2

Vange

4

Wickford

1

Essex Libraries in Braintree district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Braintree

1

Coggeshall

3

Earls Colne

3

Halstead

2

Hatfield Peverel

4

Kelvedon

4

Sible Hedingham

4

Silver End

4

Witham

1

Essex Libraries in Brentwood district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Brentwood

1

Ingatestone

3

Shenfield

3

Essex Libraries in Castle Point district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Canvey Island

1

Great Tarpots

3

Hadleigh

3

South Benfleet

3

Essex Libraries in Chelmsford district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Broomfield

4

Chelmsford

1

Danbury

4

Galleywood

4

Great Baddow

2

North Melbourne

2

South Woodham Ferrers

2

Springfield

3

Stock

4

Writtle

4

Essex Libraries in Colchester district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Colchester

1

Greenstead

2

Prettygate

4

Stanway

3

Tiptree

3

West Mersea

3

Wivenhoe

3

Essex Libraries in Epping Forest district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Buckhurst Hill

4

Chigwell

4

Chipping Ongar

2

Debden

4

Epping

2

Loughton

1

North Weald

4

Waltham Abbey

2

Essex Libraries in Harlow district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Great Parndon

3

Harlow

1

Mark Hall

4

Old Harlow

2

Tye Green

4

Essex Libraries in Maldon district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Burnham-on-Crouch

2

Maldon

1

Southminster

4

Wickham Bishops

4

Essex Libraries in Rochford district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Great Wakering

4

Hockley

3

Hullbridge

4

Rayleigh

1

Rochford

2

Essex Libraries in Tendring district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Brightlingsea

3

Clacton

1

Frinton

3

Harwich

2

Holland

4

Manningtree

3

Walton

3

West Clacton

3

Essex Libraries in Uttlesford district with proposed tier

Library

Proposed tier

Dunmow

2

Saffron Walden

1

Stansted

4

Thaxted

4

How we will work

Alternative delivery models - Essex Libraries are currently delivered in-house, managed by ECC. There are alternative delivery models that some other authorities use, such as setting up a local authority trading company, transferring the whole service to a commercial company or charitable trust, or partnering in a joint venture. At this time ECC intends to keep the service in-house, albeit community and Tier 3 libraries will be run by a partner organisation. We will continue to review options over the life of the strategy.

Engagement - we will review our communication channels and develop a communication and marketing approach that maximises digital communication and makes accurate and timely information about our services, activities and events available to customers to easily access in a self-service way. We will market library services to attract new customers and improve the future sustainability of the service.

Logistics - We will review the current reservations system, management systems and logistics network to ensure the service is provided as efficiently as possible.

What about the buildings?

This strategy is about the service, not the buildings. But we know that library buildings are often seen as valuable community assets and many people will be concerned about their future use. We will work in partnership to make the most efficient use of public buildings, whether owned by Essex County Council, public bodies or community organisation. Most library services will be in shared spaces by 2024.

Once library locations have been placed in tiers, we will review running costs and the condition of library buildings in Tier 1 and 2 with a view to bringing all services up to a consistent, modern standard and finding the most effective ways to respond to local needs. This includes considering most appropriate location for the service.

In future, library services could be provided from a range of outlets, such as shared locations with other services, new spaces provided as part of housing or retail developments or co-located in community centres, shops, leisure centres or other locations.

We would expect community libraries would be run from premises owned or paid for by the community groups. Buildings that are no longer required by the library service will be incorporated into the council’s property strategy.

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