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Essex Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024 - update

Woman in a library reading a book with headphones on
13 August 2019

The Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024 was approved by Essex County Council’s Cabinet this morning (23 July).

You can read the full strategy here: libraries.essex.gov.uk/libraries-consultation/ (Click on the heading Essex Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024).

Cllr Susan Barker, Cabinet Member for Customer, Corporate, Culture and Communities said after the meeting: “I am pleased with the outcome of today’s Cabinet meeting. Today’s decision to approve the future libraries strategy follows months of engagement, public consultation and significant work to ensure we have a service fit for a modern age. We understand people are curious to know what will happen to their local library and now that the final strategy has been approved we can get to work on developing more detailed plans to deliver it. We hope to share these plans in the autumn.”

Answers to frequent questions and to information for groups interested in setting up community-run libraries will be updated shortly.

The revised strategy proposes a future for every single library in Essex, as well as giving the service the opportunity to expand. It also commits that no libraries will close in the next five years.

The new strategy focuses on two key elements:

  • Developing a plan to invest £3m over the life of the strategy to improve libraries
  • Working with and supporting community groups or other partner organisations to set up community run libraries, with the aim of ensuring a library service is retained in every current location, and potentially established in three or more new locations.

The investment plan will include:

  • Improving libraries to deliver a consistent, high-quality look and feel across libraries in the Council-run network
  • Up to date and flexible library management computer systems
  • Upskilling staff and volunteers to improve the service to users
  • Embracing new technology and ‘smart libraries’ functionality that enables users to choose when and how they access books and learning materials
  • Deliver more outreach than ever before – taking the library service into a wide range of communities.

Groups interested in setting up community-run libraries will be offered a support package including grant funding of £18,000 over three years, an initial donation of books, a regular refresh of reading materials, training and support to get started and ongoing outreach and support from experienced library staff.

Opening hours will not change for the first year while more insight is gathered; the aim over the life of the strategy is to create an overall pattern of library opening in Council run libraries that will maximise access to libraries through a combination of staffed opening hours, volunteer supported opening hours, smart library technology and an improved eLibrary offer.

The next step is to start developing the implementation plan, more details of which will be available in the autumn.