On Thursday 29 October I attended Dickens Heath Library for a meeting regarding the future of the library. Also in attendance were fellow ward councillors, members of the parish council and senior officers from the Council’s Library Service. The meeting was a follow-up from one held a few weeks ago. At the outset it must be mentioned the library is not under threat. I state this because some members have sought to make outrageous claims about the library following a draft council task and finish report earlier this year. The absolute aim of the council is to find out how best we can utilise the library service, making it represented what the local residents want of their library.
The follow-ups to the previous meeting found that any possibility of the parish council moving to utilise space at the library (a parish council suggestion at the previous meeting) is not a short term option because of market conditions for the sale of business space. The council is also looking at EU funding for an enterprise hub, but this is also not a short term option as any funding is likely to be a few years away.
It is quite apparent that the traditional library service/offer is changing. There is a reduction in the number of people who visit libraries (a national issue) and with more use of tablet and other digital devices, together with books costing far less than they used to be, the situation is unlikely to change. Therefore library services in the UK are looking at ways to change their offer to residents/users. In Solihull, there will be a borough wide consultation early in the New Year, with the consultation having the facility to focus on individual areas for specific libraries. It is also fair to state that Solihull Library Service wants to move away from providing services it thinks local residents wants to providing services at the local libraries local residents actually want.
It must be stated that Dickens Heath library is not a high performing library in the borough and is the most expensive to run (because of a very high service charge – more on that later). The focus is how can we utilise the vast amount of space we have, especially on the first floor? It appears the use of the PC’s is dwindling as more and more people have access to the internet via personal devices. It appears that less than 20% of residents of Dickens Heath use the local library.
Suggestions at our meeting including developing the space for an Enterprise Hub and use for Financial advice. Here the library service would be seeking partners to run such services – any suggestions will be most welcome. It is anticipated that through getting partners on board the library would be open more days/hours.
Cllr Richard Holt and I are to meet with council officers to discuss the service charge the library service has to pay the management company. We will enquire into the possibility of the charge being bought out, thus helping sustain the financial liability of Dickens Heath Library. Again, I stress (especially for DRAG) the library is not under threat.
There is also one thing we can all do – How about us all visiting the library to take out a book? We might enjoy it.
Did you know: Having a Solihull Library card allows you access to dozens of expensive monthly magazines absolutely free. These include fitness, sports and photography magazines. You can find out more via this link: http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Portals/0/libraries/emagazineslist.pdf . Via the council WebPages you can also download eBooks and newspapers.