Review of library services for Rural Areas 2005
- Libraries’ Senior Management Team and Community Services’ Lead Member agreed the need for a review investigating sustainable, cost effective and innovative ways of delivering the library service in the mainly rural county of Leicestershire.
- The intentions of the review were to produce a range of options for library service delivery and development. These options were to be presented to Libraries’ SMT for consideration for implementation as from April 2006.
- The review was to include areas at present served by small libraries and mobile libraries. It was also to include the Link service (a mobile library service for homes and day centres).
- The housebound library service was to be excluded, except where delivered from mobile libraries.
Aims of the Review
- Optimise effectiveness of buildings, ICT, vehicles and deployment of staff
- Ensure value for money
- Widen the customer base
- Ensure access for all
- Improve image and profile of the library service
- Improve partnerships
- Increase community involvement in service delivery
- (Some underlying assumptions were made:
No libraries would close
Options produced would have to be sustainable and cost neutral in revenue terms
Gershon efficiencies would be considered)
- Other County Council library services were canvassed for details of similar reviews and developments, and appropriate follow-up investigations were made.
- Consultants 'Rse' were engaged to advise on the review, and, more specifically to design focus group discussions, and to design and run stakeholder consultation.
- Focus groups were held using people from the People’s Panel; findings from these were built on for a stakeholder/partner consultation day; this in turn informed the public consultation phase cosisting of a widely distributed questionnaire.
- Libraries’ partners were consulted.
- A wide range of work is being done around the country, with mobile library re-scheduling, and experimenting with “community collections” of library stock. There seems to be no real solution to the problems of developing a library service for a rural county at neutral cost.
Mobile library statistics:
- Across Leicestershire, mobile libraries spend 248 hours 36 minutes at designated stops.
- Assuming 7.5 hours per day working, mobiles spend 405 hours per fortnight away from base. This means that mobiles spend approximately 60% of their time at designated stops.
- Mobiles spend an average of 4 hours 36 minutes per route at designated stops. There is wide variation between mobiles.
- Across the mobile library service a total of 34 hours per fortnight is spent at stops serving 1 or less ticket holders.
- There are 4334 “active” family tickets across the county, representing 7398 “active” borrowers.
- Issues per minute (of designated stop time) range from 0.85 on M4 route 4, to 2.2 on M3 route 8.
- There is a total of 19012 items on loan across the mobile library service. The number of on loan items ranges from 2440 on M2 to 3887 on M3.
- There are 139 housebound customers served from mobile libraries. Assuming 10 minutes per customer, this represents 23 hours 12 minutes per fortnight across the service.
The key results of the electronic handset voting were:
- 99% of respondents think that it would be good if teenagers used libraries more, and also would like to see more families using libraries.
- A mixed response as to whether or not libraries should have exclusive Opening times for different sections of the community
- 74% would use libraries more if other council services were based there
- Book lending is still the number one use for libraries (over 70%)
- There are few worries about libraries concentrating on getting non-users into the library
- 66% feel that it makes no difference to them whether staff are paid or volunteers
- 81% think that parish/town councils could work with us to develop services
- About half of the respondents think that it would be a good thing to reduce the range of stock in order to increase the number of popular books
- About half of the respondents would be willing to pay for premium services
- 70% were against different mobiles dedicated to different groups (eg. Children’s mobile) in the community.
The key issues that Leicestershire Libraries take away from the focus groups are:
Although increased levels of popular stock would be welcome, there were concerns expressed around reducing the breadth/depth of stock; losing the opportunity to browse
Free requests at small and mobile libraries as a “pay-off” for reduced breadth and depth of stock
- Premium and e-services - Support shown for the idea of access to on-line reference services from home.
- Self service issue would be good if it freed up staff to improve other aspects of customer care
- Shared buildings - Concerns raised about libraries sharing premises with schools, although generally seen as a good possible option, as was shared use of library buildings in general
- Other - Longer opening hours and bright, well presented libraries are important to people, and libraries need to publicise themselves better.
- The key lessons learned from the focus groups and stakeholder day are:
- Co-location of council services: This seems like a relatively easy way to get more people to use libraries in Leicestershire
- Image: Several stakeholders from outside of the council felt that libraries have more of an image problem than is currently realised and acknowledged by library staff
- Influencing demand: More needs to be done to entice under-users into libraries through intelligent advertising and marketing
- Innovation: There is potential for libraries to be more innovative through taking inspiration from schemes like ‘book-crossing’
- Mobile libraries: The public in Leicestershire has a strong emotional attachment to mobile libraries, but this is not backed up by user figures. This can be addressed through reviewing:
- Mobile library stops: Should they stop outside schools and or local amenities to maximise the number of users?
- Duration of stops
- Range of stock
- Dedicated vehicles for different groups
- Onboard computers
Static libraries – key findings:
- The public feel that children stand to benefit from using public libraries more, and it is believed that we should do more to encourage teenagers to use libraries.
- The promotion of reading is important, and more popular stock is wanted by 48% of the respondents – although 68% do not want more popular stock at the expense of breadth/depth of stock. Of this 68%, 65% said that free requests would make this smaller range of stock more acceptable.
- “Adult education” is seen as the most popular other service to have at the library.
Mobile libraries – key findings:
- 56% of respondents said they would use the mobile if it visited during the evening
- 55% of respondents said they would use the mobile if it visited on Saturdays, and 37% on Sundays
- 62% of respondents think that mobiles should provide access to information and advice about other services
- 158 respondents said that they are willing to get involved in delivering the housebound library service (and gave their names and addresses)
These recommendations should be used as the basis for further consultations with rural communities to ascertain which of them are committed to developing library services for their citizens, in a partnership with the County Council. Given a measure of “ownership" of a development, a sustainable outcome is more probable. The report will be widely available in January 2006, seeking commitment from potential partners, for community–based library developments.
- Continue to develop libraries’ partnership with Adult Learning Services, as our customers see this as the most important “other” service to be available from libraries. Libraries need to adopt a flexible approach to procedural issues around use of libraries when they are closed.
- Develop use of libraries by voluntary agencies, as this is something else that is high on the list of “other” services seen as important at libraries. This will require increased promotional activity by library staff, and a flexible approach to procedural issues around the use of libraries when they are closed.
- Continue to develop libraries as “Connect Points”, as access to other council services, via libraries, is also seen as important.
- To continue to address the issue of providing space in libraries for community groups, through the capital programme.
- Mobile library services to be re-organised to maximise service delivery time, and to improve use of vehicles.This will involve:
- Re-basing and re-routing
- Less off-road time planned
- Criteria for mobile library stops
- Cutting out very low use stops
- Providing the housebound service through a network of volunteers, in partnership with community organisations
- Amalgamating stops
- Concentrating stops at community venues (in partnership with community organisations), and primary schools.
Timescale – ready for implementation from April 2006
- Mobile library services for Travellers and Gypsies to be provided from the Link vehicle, after consultations starting in Jan 2006.
- Link vehicle to develop services for groups of older adults from black and minority ethnic communities from April 2006.
- Community collections cannot be developed until corresponding savings are achieved, as there are costs involved in providing and managing the collections. They will also depend on potential partners choosing to be involved in the service delivery.Potential partners include post offices, shops and pubs.
Collections of this nature should only be developed where there is community demand, and a positive indication that a community group would be involved in service delivery.
- Electronic access to County Council services - Where this exists in community venues, it could be enhanced by the venues becoming collection and drop-off points for requested library books.Again, this option for service delivery will depend on the level of community demand and involvement.
- Premium services: e-access to reference services from home
There is enough interest in / support for electronic access, from home, to library electronic reference databases to make it worthwhile investigating the development of a paid-for service.
The report and appendices are available for download in PDF
- Full Report
- Project initiation document
- Public questionnaires
- Comparative research findings (national)
- Net direct library costs per issue
- Net direct library costs per visitor
- Mobile library stops and statistics
- Focus group electronic handset voting results
- Focus group detailed discussion notes
- Public consultation results
- Some worked examples
Page Last Updated: 22 February 2006