The leader of Plymouth City Council has made an impassioned appeal to fellow councillors to vote for the updated Plan for Libraries to unlock £250,000 investment, create a fairer access to services across the city and a more modern offer for users.
Speaking ahead of the Full Council on Monday, Council leader Ian Bowyer said: “We have done our utmost to create a package that will take our libraries forward and make the service fit for the future.
“We are really conscious of the enormous value libraries have in our communities and the role they play not just in literacy, learning and skills development, but also advice and information for the health and wellbeing of our residents.”
Statistics show that just seven of the city’s 17 libraries account for 80 per cent of all library visits and 75 per cent of all items borrowed, he said and continued: “We need to make a clear decision on this service as trying to run 17 libraries is not sustainable. It is limiting our ability to use resources effectively and means we cannot plan for the future.
“We have said before we do not want the service to be constrained by buildings, and through our 24/7 digital offering, more eBooks are borrowed each year than printed books from 10 of our libraries.
“Many of us have fond memories of libraries when they were growing up, but times have changed, the internet has transformed learning and reading habits have changed.
“Our new city centre library better reflects the sort of place people want when they visit a library. We want to see more of this across our seven main libraries with a full range of services including meeting spaces, public access computers, free Wifi access and skilled staff on-hand.
He added: “This plan looks at how we can offer a service for the 21st century rather than the 1970s and we think we have the balance right.”
The outreach offer and online offer outlined in the new Plan for Libraries would enable the service to be more responsive to the changing demands of readers and users.
Pop-up libraries able to go out to the communities (where a library is closing) with tailored events such as Rhymetime and gadget sessions could be coming to community centres as well as locations such as the Four Greens Community Trust in Whitleigh – an area of the city which has previously had no service at all.
The Tier 2 libraries, Efford, Estover, North Prospect and Peverell will have an ‘as-is’ offer although the council is keen to see the community and volunteers get more involved in promoting and using these facilities.
The public consultation was based on the original proposals to close 10 libraries. The Cabinet then reviewed and listened to all the views and comments put forward in response to the public consultation exercise and revised some of the proposals, including keeping open four of Tier 2 libraries, to produce the updated Plan which will be voted on at Full Council on Monday.
Over 3,700 responses were received, 150 individual stakeholders including primary, secondary and other educational providers contacted and over 370 people during 20 public sessions.
The Council also received 183 letters, 61 emails, 51 comments on social media and 2,317 signatures on six petitions.