The Library Services Manager introduced the
report and stated that the Peer Review team had received many
positive comments about the staff, volunteers and stakeholder that
they had met during their visit. She explained that the report
focussed on the library service, and the team had been impressed
with the developing library and hub programme. She then outlined
the six recommendations that were included at point 3.1 of the
report. She summarised and stated that there would be a review of
library delivery, but they were happy at this stage of the
Councillor Redsell opened discussion and described how Blackshots Library within her ward was one of the most well used libraries in the borough, and welcomed the report. She felt that some libraries needed some attention to help them work better, as people benefitted from the services provided. She hoped to see more work on libraries come before the committee, as she wished to see libraries become self-sustaining in regards to funding. Councillor Muldowney added that it was good to see support for libraries and plans to develop them into hubs. She highlighted recommendation four and felt it was good to see a new ‘Friends Network’ being proposed. She added that libraries held numerous events and asked if an increased social media presence could enhance footfall. The Library Services Manager replied that a meeting had been held recently between the libraries and communications teams to develop a social media presence, as libraries currently only had a Twitter feed. She stated that the communications team were keen to put library and hub events on the Council’s Facebook page, and there was work on an annual library social media plan to increase support.
The Chair felt it was good to see positive comments come back as part of the report, and felt that libraries were an important investment. She queried the number of hours libraries were open, as some were only open for fifteen hours per week. She asked what could be done to ensure longer opening hours for libraries. The Library Services Manager responded that the smaller libraries were open for fifteen hours per week, but other libraries were open a variety of hours, with Grays Central Library being open 48 hours per week. She added that new technology was being implemented by Christmas, such as self-service machines, which were being introduced next week in East Tilbury library, and this would ensure that volunteers could open libraries when staff were not available.
The Chair felt this would be a good addition, and felt that smaller libraries should be open for longer. She added that a Libraries Strategy had recently come before the Committee and asked if an updated on this strategy could be bought back to Committee. The Director Adults, Housing, Health/Interim Children’s Director replied that although libraries has not seen significant investment in previous years, this had recently changed, for example the new library in East Tilbury had recently been opened; the library in Aveley would be opened in the new year; and the library service would receive £200,000 for digital technology. He felt that an update on the Libraries Strategy could be bought back during the next municipal year.
Councillor Ralph welcomed the report and felt it was good to see investment in libraries, particularly in those that had been under threat of closure. He felt it was good to see libraries working with local schools to encourage reading, such as the ‘Summer Reading Challenge’. He asked if the libraries team were ready for the 30,000 new homes that were planned in Thurrock and the extra footfall this would bring. The Director Adults, Housing, Health/Interim Director Children’s Services responded that as these new homes were being considered as part of the Local Plan, infrastructure such as libraries would also be developed. He confirmed that no libraries would be closing and a Library and Hub Programme had been agreed which was a five-year strategy. He added that the team were currently tackling short-term issues, but the new strategy would focus on the longer term development of libraries.
Councillor Redsell asked how far into the current Libraries Strategy the team were. The Strategic Lead – Community Development and Equalities replied that the current strategy had been running for almost twelve months.
1. That the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider the recommendations in the Peer Challenge report and comment on the proposed actions