Plymouth’s updated Plan for Libraries could reach new users

Plymouth’s Council leader has reassured library users that the revised Plan for Libraries could see the service reach parts of Plymouth that have not had any service before.

Speaking at Cabinet, Council leader Ian Bowyer gave more detail about the outreach service which aims to bring books, activities for children as well as support services to the communities that have previously not had any library provision, including Whitleigh.

The Cabinet yesterday backed the proposals which have been revised following an extensive 12 week consultation. Now the plan will go to the Full Council on 3 July.

The revised plan still delivers our original proposals that were consulted on of an enhanced in-library offer, enhanced online offer and our new outreach offer for those areas where a library is to close.

Under the revised proposals there will be a tier of seven larger libraries: Central, Crownhill, Devonport, Plympton, Plymstock, Southway and St Budeaux with overall hours increasing by 26.5 hours a week.

There will also be another tier of libraries comprising Efford, Estover, North Prospect and Peverell, with opening hours to remain the same. We will be talking to those communities about how these hours can best serve local residents and what part the community can play in running services there.

Council Leader Ian Bowyer said: “Understandably much of the attention has been about some of the smaller libraries that will be going as they are just not up to the job of what a modern library service is about.

“But this plan was always about how to create a modern libraries service, which reflects the 21st century, which reflects the fact people want access to computers and access to advice and a full range of services based around reading.”

The Plan for Libraries sets out proposals for the next three years and the steps the Council will continue with its vision to ‘deliver modern services that inspire learning and creativity, improve health and wellbeing and support digital inclusion.’

Despite significant financial constraints, the plan commits to invest in the future of the library service to ensure buildings, technology and resources are fit for purpose now and into the future.

Assistant director of Customer Services Faye Batchelor-Hambleton said: “This proposal means we will be investing in seven key libraries to make sure they have adequate meeting spaces, at least 12 public access computers, public access WIFI and trained staff.

“Our outreach offer means we will be able to provide a pop-up library wherever and whenever is appropriate for individual communities. We will also provide signposting and information.”

She added: “The response from the public to the Central Library in the city centre, showed us that there is huge support for modern and flexible spaces with access to digital services, advice and guidance in areas such as employment and health.

“The consultation has also showed how strongly people feel that libraries should be about more than just books. They should be about help with job seeking, digital skills training, access to council services and health information – this plan will help us continue to offer this.”