A report into the future of Liverpool’s library service is to be considered at a Cabinet meeting on Friday 15 August.
The Library Service needs to reduce its overall budget by £2.5 million as part of the city council’s £156 million of savings needed over the next three years due to cuts in Central Government funding.
The scale of the challenge resulted in a two month public and stakeholder consultation which addressed the issues of remodelling the service and looked at how the city’s 19 public libraries were used by customers.
The report identifies 11 community libraries that could be at risk of closure if alternative and viable ways of delivering the services from these buildings cannot be found. These libraries are:
- Breck Road Library
- Dovecot Library
- Fazakerley Library
- Kensington Library
- Lee Valley Library
- Old Swan Library
- Sefton Park Library
- Spellow Library
- Walton Library
- Wavertree Library
- West Derby Library
They are potentially at risk because of a number of factors including below average use, high running costs, their proximity to another library and the potential of the service being provided by another organisation or group.
If the report is approved, another full consultation exercise will be undertaken which will include a series of public meetings, inviting people to have their say on the proposed service as a whole as well as those venues which have been identified as potentially at risk.
These sessions will look at all options including if they can feasibly be operated and financially supported by any external groups or organisations.
The proposed new library service would see:
- 95 per cent of residents living or working within two miles of a library.
- The city council continuing to operate seven community libraries retained which would be: Croxteth, Norris Green, Toxteth, Childwall, Allerton, Garston and Parklands, along with Central Library.
- Central Library stay open 7 days a week at 70 hours.
- The Home Library Service retained which serves mobility impaired and socially isolated residents.
- The RNIB Talking Book Service (audiobooks for the blind and visually impaired) retained.
- The all year round Read Liverpool online e-library service continue.
Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, said: “We have had £176million cuts over the last three years, and we face another £156million over the next three years.
“We have produced a report that has looked at how we shape our library service for the future, accepting the fact that we have to make savings across all services, including Adult Social Care, Mental Health, Children’s Services and many others.
“The library service cannot be excluded otherwise more cuts will fall on other important services, which is why we have to make this £2.5million saving.
“The proposals are the fairest way of dealing with a financial situation outside of our control. Not only have we had to find these savings because of the cuts, we also have to find money to pay for PFI schemes, like the £50 million borrowed to refurbish Central Library.
“There are more service cuts and reductions to come, but we will do as much as we can to save services and to protect the people who rely on us.”
More than 3,500 people took part in the initial public consultation. If the report is approved, dates for the next set of public meetings will be announced as soon as possible, with the information being made available through sources such as the city council’s website and in libraries.
The initial consultation found that:
- 45 per cent of customers use Central Library, and 40 per cent of those consulted said they would use this library if their local library closed.
- The most-used libraries are Central Library, Allerton, Childwall, Garston and Norris Green. Together these libraries account for 57 per cent of the total library use across the city.
- 59 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to visit another library if their local one was to close.
Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member responsible for libraries, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “The sheer scale of the cuts which face the council mean we have to make some extremely tough decisions.
“We, along with an independent company, have scrutinised all the responses to the consultation looking closely at areas such as what library services the residents use, when they use it and how often.
“At the same time we have to look at the individual venues and consider what their running costs are, can we work with partner organisations to keep costs down, were they located near another library and had any community based organisation shown an interest in taking over the running of the facility.
“It’s important to stress that it isn’t a foregone conclusion that the libraries identified will close – we are carrying out a further four week consultation to make sure all options are considered and that it has been a fully comprehensive review of the service as a whole.”