Cabinet Member: Councillor Ioan Thomas
To scrutinise the process followed in order to create the strategy.
a) A report was submitted by the Senior Community Learning Manager, Economy Department, asking members to scrutinise the process followed for drawing up the 'More than Words' Strategy. The Cabinet Member noted that providing a Library Service that is 'inclusive and efficient for all who wish to use it' is a statutory requirement under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.
b) It was reported that a public consultation to gather the views of residents, users and partners on the "More than Words" Strategy had been held during May - July 2015. It was reiterated that a range of recommendations had been submitted by the consultants who were gathering and analysing the feedback submitted by the public and partners. Some of the observations submitted by the consultants were noted;
• The need to adapt the vision and strengthen some of the priorities.
• that continuing with the existing situation was not sustainable.
• general unwillingness amongst the public to see any change to the network of libraries, even in a challenging financial context.
It was highlighted that the Strategy recommended that the Libraries Service focussed on four priority fields, namely, reading offer, information offer, health and well-being offer and digital offer.
In order to achieve the Strategy within the budget, it was recommended to categorise the type of provision required across the County and it was recommended to move to a provision based on four models.
• Catchment area libraries
• Community libraries under the Council's control
• Mobile Services
• Community Link
c) During the discussion, the following observations were made:
• Concern that this placed an additional burden on Community Councils. It was noted that volunteers acted on behalf of the Councils and that the numbers of members were reducing due to the additional responsibilities that were being offered to them from every direction. It was highlighted that discussions needed to be held to highlight these additional expectations.
In response to the observation, it was noted that the concern regarding the capacity of volunteers to achieve had been considered and the recommendation was for the Council to make an 'offer of what it could achieve' with the response dependent on 'what community councils could achieve'. It was reiterated that solutions were not being shared but rather a statement of what the Council could offer...
• In response to a reduction in the book-buying budget, a proposal was made to hold an 'Amnesty Day'
• A need to consider bringing services together - libraries, tourist centres, public toilets.
• The need to hold discussions locally in order to respond positively to the challenge was emphasised
• The models to be welcomed and ones that responded creatively to ensuring that this special libraries service continued in Gwynedd.
• What was the value of 'Lori Ni'?
• Further investment was needed in Welsh language bold print books
ch) In response to observations, it was noted that the Gift Policy was one that had been considered and that libraries in the past had received very valuable gifts. Nevertheless, due to lack of staff, it was noted that it would be an additional task for staff to pick and choose suitable books to offer on loan.
In the context of the value of 'Lori Ni' it was noted that the lorry had a very important function within the service - ensuring that printed and digital books reached every child in the authority with the cooperation of schools. It was reiterated that the schools, that also faced budget cuts, were cutting down on books, therefore they appreciated a regular supply of books for children. Although the lorry's maintenance costs were approximately £30,000 per annum, it was reiterated that this was worth every penny.
d) In the context of bold print books, it was noted that these were only available in the library, and that Gwynedd was leading on the production of Welsh language bold print books - other authorities needed to be encouraged to buy into the scheme.
dd) The comment noting that all of the Council's assets needed to be considered was accepted. The hope was that discussion with Local Councils would release possible options so that better use could be made of the Council's resources.
RESOLVED to accept the model in brief, however the following was highlighted:
- Concern regarding placing additional pressures on Community Councils as a result of the new models and that a discussion needed to be held on the capacity of this with the local community.
- The need to combine libraries with the Council's other assets.