East Riding's lean, modern libraries to be hubs offering new services
LIBRARIES in the East Riding are to become community hubs offering a range of services.
That is the intention after a far reaching East Riding Council consultation, adopted by the cabinet this week.
The strategy is aimed at creating a "lean and modern" library service.
But East Riding Council's cabinet pledged it would not mean library closures.
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The plan was compiled by Councillor Richard Burton, the authority's portfolio holder for civic wellbeing and culture, alongside the director of environment and neighbourhood services, Nigel Leighton.
Mr Burton said: "This plan has been a long time coming and it's about dealing with libraries in a different way.
"Many of the strategies involve things like self-service and multi-purpose facilities.
"It may mean delivering a better service but at a reduced cost."
The council can point to the success of The Pocela Centre in Pocklington, which operates as a point of contact for the council as well as a library. The authority believes, particularly in rural areas, similar operations will be vital if services are to be maintained.
Mr Burton said: "The Pocela Centre saves us £50,000-a-year.
"It's an example of a multi-purpose centre but it's open longer and there are more books.
"It's about being clever with what we've got.
"A library is not just a library any more, it's about utilising a building. The paper book is one aspect of that, ten years ago it was the only aspect."
One of the main themes in the report to cabinet was how technology can be used to help the authority meet its budget targets.
It says libraries in East Yorkshire will continue to be run by the council "for the foreseeable future".
But the document does leave the door open for "other management models", which may involve community groups in the future.
Mr Burton said: "We're in a position where we don't want to close libraries. We can't guarantee that in the future but our aim is not to close libraries.
"We've got no intention of not delivering the library service ourselves in the future. But we're always looking at new ways and we're always open to new ideas."
The strategy identifies that library services need to be delivered differently in rural and urban areas and it cements the use of mobile libraries.
But it also states the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, families and older people will be the priority for the next five years.
A quarter of the spaces on the council's Summer Reading Challenge programme will be reserved for children from disadvantaged families.
Last year's Challenge was hailed a huge success after hundreds of children took part and read six books during the school holidays.
Created and run by the Reading Agency, the independent charity working to inspire more people to read more, the event was supported by children's publishers.
As part of the new shake-up, community and voluntary groups and other public bodies will be encouraged to play roles in promoting heath, skills-development, family support and education through libraries.
The council also wants to look at how it can expand online learning services and providing opportunities for over-55s to learn IT skills.