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Libraries fit for the future and a fit with people’s lives

Girl sat on floor in library
22 February 2019

The consultation on the draft five-year strategy for future library services in Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock which run their own library services) is now closed. The consultation ran from 29 November 2019 to 21 February 2019.

We are analysing your feedback and reports will be presented to Cabinet in summer 2019.

Further details on the strategy and consultation are here.

Traditional library use in Essex has collapsed in the last ten years. There are 31% fewer people using Essex libraries now than there were in 2008 – over 100,000 fewer active users (people who have used their library card in the last year) – and loans of books and other items are down by 52%. At the same time, use of the e-library service, including e-book loans and online  reservations, has more than doubled since 2013.

Essex has the second-highest number of libraries in the UK and is in the top-five counties nationally for spending on libraries – but with increasing costs and declining usage, especially at some smaller libraries, the service is no longer viable in its current form.

Demand for e-books, e-magazines and e-audio has risen by 205% over five years, from 61,000 loans to 186,000, with demand expected to continue to grow. 85% of adults now own a smartphone and one in ten use a tablet or similar screen every day.

The consultation sets out a vision of modern library service, fit for now and in the future. The future draft proposals aim to build online library services, with fewer, but better libraries and more community-run libraries.