Future of York Libraries

The York Council is taking the next steps in a review of the role, function and management of its Library service. The Libraries have been run by an independent social interest company since 2012.  The company’s contract is coming up for renewal.

The Council report looks at what more residents might expect to get from the Library service over the next decade.

The comprehensive report makes it clear that the York Library service is one of the most successful – judged against a range of criteria – in the country.

A “needs assessment” seeks to establish what changes need to be made.  It ranks highly the need to further establish libraries as the “hub” of resilient communities. They would be a focal point for the coordination of local public services and could address issues with inclusion. Learning and skills would be a key objective as would access to health and other advice. They have a role to play in promoting culture.

The 16 existing libraries are generally viewed highly by users. York has more libraries per head of population than most comparable local authorities.

Despite the national trend of library visits declining slightly over time, Explore Libraries footfall has been holding up well, thanks in large part to the reading cafés which have been opened. Compared to other English unitary authorities, Explores performance is upper quartile.

Explore’s footfall in 17/18 across all branches was 1,014,173.

A public consultation exercise revealed that user’s top priorities for the different types of library, the top answers were the same for all libraries: Borrowing books, reading and studying space, local information, events, computers. There was just one exception which was that archives and local history was also a priority for York Explore.

Non-users indicated that the top three things that would encourage them to come to a library in the future was: a reading café on site, better information about services, and more events and activities.

The report talks obliquely about shared buildings. It stops short of proposing he closure of any libraries although some Councillors privately say this is inevitable (and has happened elsewhere).  Unless and until a properly costed and resourced business plan ins produced then the “vision” will not have a future. The devil will be in the detail of any tender document that may be issued.

But the plan could deliver the much needed, and long outstanding, expansion of the Acomb Library. In turn, that could deliver a “one stop shop” public service office – incorporating Housing, Police and health teams.

A useful benefit for the Acomb side of the City.

Pen pictures of each library can be accessed via these links

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *