The future of local libraries, including the mobile library

Recently received email:

To the Chairman or Clerk of all East Sussex Parish and Town Councils,

East Sussex Libraries – The Way Forward
Libraries Strategic Commissioning Strategy

I am writing to let you know that on 6 March 2018 the County Council’s Cabinet will consider a recommendation to agree a revised Strategy for the future of East Sussex Libraries.  This follows a 12 week public consultation on the draft Strategy between 21 September and 14 December 2017.

Today we have published on our website the report that the County Council’s Cabinet will consider, together with the proposed revised Strategy document and all of the supporting papers.  They can be downloaded from eastsussex.gov.uk/librarystrategy.

We received a significant response to our public consultation and we are very grateful to everyone who took the time to provide their input and feedback on our original proposals.  Over 3,600 consultation questionnaires and a further 1,100 pieces of correspondence were received, as well as petitions.  Overwhelmingly most respondents were current library users and the majority were users of one of the libraries we propose to close, including the Mobile Library.

We have read and carefully considered every single submission received.  Based on feedback and support for new service offers during the public consultation, we have made a number of changes to our proposals.  These provide a fuller picture of how we will create a modern, sustainable needs-based library service.  Key proposed new services are summarised as follows:

  • Greater emphasis on the role of libraries to promote numeracy, as well as literacy, to support the life chances of both children and adults
  • Closer alignment of spending on the library service to meet identified needs, ensuring we can deliver the proposed Vision and Strategic Outcomes.  This primarily involves:

o   re-focussing the service so that our work is centred on promoting and delivering against each of the Strategic Outcomes.

o   increasing our outreach offer to serve communities with higher need, including Ore and Langney, with activities taking place at the East Hastings and Shinewater Children’s Centres.

o   profiling spending on stock and resources to prioritise investment to meet needs, including materials and support for children and young people.

  • Prioritised investment in a modern eLibrary service to meet the needs of a growing online customer base, including additional Computer Buddy support, particularly for people who may benefit from practical support to overcome an initial lack of skills or confidence to use the eLibrary.
  • A new Community Library Membership aimed at supporting more rural communities, to enable them to make library materials available at times and in a location of their choosing.
  • New pilots of Homework and Study Clubs in libraries, based on feedback from young people about how the service can meet their needs better at significant points in the academic year, and the continuation of our popular new Code Clubs for children and young people.
  • Replacement of the Schools Library and Museum Service (SLAMS), following very useful feedback from schools, with a more flexible and affordable offer, including launching a new Teachers Library Membership for East Sussex schools.

Turning to library closures, we recognise that communities do not wish to lose well-regarded local services.  We also understand that in every community across the county there are individuals and families with needs and that in those communities where it is proposed no longer to retain a library or the Mobile Library Service, there are individuals who would be affected by the loss of the service.  We have analysed all of the responses and revisited the evidence base again.  We do not consider that new information has been presented in the consultation responses and other forms of stakeholder engagement which means that this evidence base for the draft Strategy was incorrect or had been wrongly interpreted.

In view of this, and taking into account the revised draft Vision and Strategic Outcomes for the East Sussex Library and Information Service and the context in which it needs to operate, which includes the financial position of the council, we believe that the original proposal for a smaller network of 17 libraries is correct.  If the revised Strategy is agreed by Cabinet, this would result in the closure of Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Ringmer and Willingdon libraries and the Mobile Library Service, and the end to support for Northiam Village Library. 92% of members of the current 24 East Sussex libraries would be unaffected by the closures and we have ensured that overall high levels of access to the library service for residents would remain, fulfilling our statutory duty.

If Cabinet were to agree the revised Strategy on 6 March we would maintain our commitment to support each community in their considerations of whether they wish to take on the continued funding or running of the library.

If you have any queries or comments at this stage please let me know.

Yours sincerely

Rupert Clubb

Director Communities, Economy and Transport
Communities, Economy & Transport
01273 482200