The Council will be discussing another report on the future of library buildings in York next week. There is little new in the document.
We have seen a decade of agonising about the service which has been run for several years by an independent – not for profit – social interest organisation. They recently won the right to run the library service for a further 15 years.
Whether staff moral has held up in the face of Council indecisiveness in recent years may be open to question.
Compared to other areas, York has a relative successful library service. It has not slipped into the “basket case” situation seen recently with several other public services in the City.
Usage levels have been stable, no libraries have been closed, new libraries have been established at Burnholme, New Earswick and the soon to be opened (probably) Community Stadium. The Reading Café in Rowntree park is successful and an overhaul of the Central Library and Archives has been completed.
The library service has recognised that it needs to be more than a book lending service. Some have styled themselves as learning or “explore” centres. Some have opened cafes. Several have established “Friends of” groups.
But progress in west York has been slow.
In 2008 the Council identified the need to expand the Acomb Library. It had had a modest extension to the front, but other parts of the building were aging. The Council decided to acquire land to the rear to facilitate expansion. The idea was that a “one stop shop” should be established with staff moving in from the then nearby “Acomb Office”. Officials were told to buy the bowling club land but failed to push a deal though. The bowling club was latter to be sold to a private housing developer. The Council land is now part of a building compound.
The expansion plans were jettisoned by a new administration when it took office in 2011.
Since then the staff from the Acomb (housing) Office have been centralised into West Offices. There has been no significant investment in the library building. The acquired land became an overgrown eyesore.
About two years ago an opportunity arose to rationalise the site by incorporating the library, bowling club and extension land into one redevelopment plan.
The Council failed to act. As a result, expansion options have been compromised.
The latest report confirms a £4 million budget for improvements to the libraries in Acomb and Clifton. This was first announced 4 months ago. The report says that the use of this investment is aimed at “reducing running costs”.
The report talks of identifying “co-location partners”
It will be mid 2021 at the earliest before residents will see any building work taking place at the Acomb Explore site.
So for the next 4 years west York will no doubt be expected to muddle through
The report confirms that “the 15-year Library Contract sets out the requirement for Explore (the operators) to co-locate all the Gateway libraries by 31 March 2027”.
This could have significant implications for smaller libraries such as that at Dringhouses.