Two decisions, announced this week, kick off the £3 million investment promised in the Future Library Services Strategy 2019-2024.
£1.9 million will be spent on refurbishing larger libraries to create modern, flexible and attractive spaces that are fit for the future. The aim is to give libraries a modern and attractive look and feel and respond to the diverse and changing ways people want to use them. Priority will go to libraries owned by the council or on a long lease, most in need of work and where other organisations are interested in sharing space.
The first library will be chosen soon. User groups will be invited to comment on plans and work on the first library is expected to be completed early in 2021.
The council is updating its library management system (the IT platform used to run the service). The preferred option is to join the Libraries Consortium.
If this decision goes ahead it is anticipated that Essex will join the consortium around summer 2021. It will provide library users a richer, more flexible service. They will have access to more than seven million books and other reading materials. Users will be able to browse, read, book events, follow favourite authors and get alerts about new books all in one place, on computers, tablets or mobile phones. The Council will have greater buying power and be able to run the service more efficiently.
Investment has already started. Public computers are being upgraded in all libraries and new energy-saving LED lighting has been installed in the first of up to 25 libraries.