Libraries to get new role as ‘hubs for community’

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THE evolution of a Yorkshire city’s libraries into community hubs to buck the national trend of controversial closures is being stepped up with the launch of a city-wide consultation.

York Council is planning the overhaul in the city’s libraries in an attempt to establish a network of bases to provide vital community services ranging from evening classes and family advice to internet access.

Other cash-starved local authorities across the country are having to enforce a programme of closures to cope with the dramatic reduction in Government funding.

But York Council is streamlining its own libraries in the hope of making savings to help alleviate the funding crisis.

The council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and social inclusion, Coun Sonja Crisp, will be asked to approve plans to continue developing the Explore vision in libraries. She will be asked to agree proposals on Tuesday next week to roll-out a major consultation from October to March.

The move is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the needs of library users as part of the new vision, with community groups, committees and volunteering roles in libraries planned.

The council has already made steps towards boosting the use of the city’s 14 libraries, and free wi-fi internet access was introduced at all sites earlier this year.More self-service machines, which have already proved a major success in libraries where they are operating to help cut costs, are also due to be introduced.

The restructuring is aimed at alleviating the council’s financial crisis, with £20m in savings due to be enforced in this financial year.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in March that several posts are expected to be lost as part of the restructuring. However, it is hoped compulsory redundancies will be avoided because some staff are considering handing in their notice voluntarily.

email paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk