Future plans for York libraries

 Council to tender for new service provider

Acomb Explore Library

City of York Council’s Executive will be asked to consider proposals for the future development of York’s Libraries and Archives at a meeting later this month (21 June).

If the proposals are agreed, the council will look to appoint an operator for the service for the next 15 years with a contract of £32 million; maintaining the existing level of funding despite pressure on budgets

The existing five-year contract with Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Limited expires on 31 March 2019.

The move is likely to cause concern that the substantial progress made by the current operator will be jeopardised. Working together the Council and contractor have managed to sustain the existing network of facilities across the whole City – unlike the situation in  most other parts of the country.

The tender documents may raise the prospect of reduced hours or “volunteer only”  manning at some small branches.

Some of the Councils “outsourcing” deals have failed spectacularly.

Yesterday the Warden Call CIC was revealed to have crashed financially and it will now be brought back “in house”.  “Make it York” has had a troubled couple of years while GLL has been criticised for chasing footfall, since it took over the Councils leisure centres, at the expense of a timetable with a broader appeal.

The procurement plans follow a citywide consultation from November 2017 – February 2018, which 2,484 people responded to, giving their views on the council’s vision for the future of the city’s library and archives service.

Key elements of the consultation feedback include:

  • The need to retain key services such as borrowing books, providing a reading and studying space, and providing access to computers
  • The desirability of providing a reading cafe on site
  • The importance of the library as a community hub with opening hours to reflect the needs of local residents
  • Libraries providing state of the art learning spaces
  • Maximising the best use of the buildings through partnership working
  • Respondents broadly supported for the vision of moving away from stand alone library buildings and recognised the need for partnerships to create services co-located with other community amenities.

Key proposals for the future service include:

  • York Explore Library as the flagship service centre, including the archives and local history centre
  • Explore Library Learning Centres located in the areas of greater need: at the Centre @ Burnholme, Acomb Explore and in the Clifton Area.
  • Explore Gateways offered at a variety of venues, preferably with cafe facilities, and co-located with other community activities where possible, with local communities invited to be involved in their operation.
  • Virtual libraries providing a 24/7 online service, involving e books and e magazines, with virtual spaces for people to share ideas.
  • Providing reading cafes, encouraging the joy of reading especially for those who may feel uncomfortable in a more traditional library. There is currently a reading cafe at Rowntree Park.

Under the proposals, a total of £147,000 will be set aside as part of the contract to continue the ongoing programme of improvements to the council’s 14 existing library buildings and two mobile libraries.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism, City of York Council, said: “At a time when local government finance is under real pressure and libraries are closing we’re pleased to be keeping all libraries open, delivering new facilities such as Centre@Burnholme, at Heworth.

“York residents are rightly proud of our libraries and archives service. We need to put plans in place now to safeguard the future of our libraries and to ensure that the service continues to evolve and develop to meet the needs of residents now and in the future, which is why we’re proposing to maintain the existing funding levels for the new contract.”

If agreed, the council will go out to procurement for an operator that can deliver the authority’s future vision for the city’s libraries and archives* over the next 15 years, providing a high quality service at a competitive price.

For a full copy of the report visit http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=10469&Ver=4

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