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Seven-day opening of Palmers Green Library is one of the innovations that will be introduced if Enfield Council agrees to a proposed Library Development Strategy for 2015 to 2018.

The Strategy will be among the subjects to be discussed at this week's meeting of Enfield's Cabinet.  If agreed by the Cabinet, it will be presented to the full Council for its approval later this year.

pg library after renovationPalmers Green Library as it will look when it reopens later this year. Under the new strategy it will be open seven days a weekUnder the strategy Palmers Green would become one of four "flagship" libraries with enhanced services and longer opening hours - the others are Enfield Town, Edmonton Green and Ordnance Unity.  All four would be open seven days a week, though this policy would be reviewed after twelve months.  The borough's remaining 13 libraries would become "community libraries".

The strategy has been developed following public consultation which ran for 13 weeks from November 2014. More than 2000 people responded to survey questions which were based around two options, both designed to save money without closing any physical libraries while at the same time introducing some improvements.  The options basically came down to choosing how to apportion available funding between the four flagship libraries and the other libraries.  Option 1 would provide a bigger share of the resources to the flagships than option 2.

The new strategy is based on Option 1, but with some modifications and clarifications mainly introduced in response to concerns about the quality of the librarian services available in the community libraries and the character and roles of the other organisations that will be colocated with the community libraries.  It is not clear whether or not this was the intention all along, but it now seems that the community libraries will normally all stay in the buildings where they are at present, that the "host" organisations will move into the libraries (not the other way round), and that they will play no part in managing the library services - so no "privatisation" of library services will result.  It is intended that at least two of the library "hosts" will belong to the voluntary sector.

Although all library buildings will be retained, the mobile library service will be withdrawn.  In its place the volunteer-led home delivery service will be expanded and possibly combined with befriending services for the housebound.  In general, there will be increased use of volunteers instead of council employees.

Depending on how well the community libraries concept works out - and they will all be different from one another - the strategy might actually succeed in providing overall improved services at reduced cost.  However, there will clearly be downsides:  smaller locally held holdings of physical books in the community libraries and, most importantly, redundancies and reduced career opportunities for professionally trained librarians/information specialists.

The public information pack for the Cabinet meeting includes the following summary of the library development strategy.

9.  Library Development Strategy 2015-2018

9.1  The full Library Development Strategy is set out in Appendix C. In summary it recommends Option 1 with some changes in response to the consultation.

9.2  Palmers Green, Enfield Town, Ordnance Unity and Edmonton Green designated as flagship libraries offering the following services:

  • A comprehensive range of standard library resources and activities alongside using leading technologies to create digital hubs that will offer a far greater number of self-service kiosks, PCs and wifi
  • Homework clubs and quiet zones for online and traditional learning activities with the option to book space at busy times
  • Trained staff able to provide advice and support including selfscanning of evidence with video and web chat functionality to talk to officers directly and access video interpreting services
  • Joining up with voluntary sector and partner organisations to support employment advice and job clubs and facilities for appointment only advice sessions to provide advice and guidance to vulnerable customers
  • Training areas to support those requiring more intensive support around personal budgeting or digital access
  • Business innovation advice to support the self-employed and new starters with access to business online resources
  • Community space for hire
  • Children’s library services linked to children’s centres to ensure support for families and early years learning
  • More opportunities for income generation including refreshments, paid for events and activities (including children’s events), review of charges and fees

9.3  The four flagship libraries will be open 7 days a week for a year and then reviewed as to usage.

9.4  Edmonton Green is expanded onto the first floor of the Edmonton Centre providing a full access and digital suite, community room and children’s library on the ground floor with refreshments. Upstairs will be a quiet zone for study and browsing with the option to book study space at busy times. This will increase both the availability of computers for digital inclusion and the amount of study space.

9.5  All other libraries will become community libraries where we will seek to find a co-location partner to share the space.  As a result the space occupied by the library may be smaller than the current layout.

9.6  The library space will not be run by the co-located partner.  The Council will continue to be responsible for the library services delivered through community libraries and the process to select the partners to share the building will ensure that it continues to support universal access to library services.

9.7  In response to the consultation, each community library will be tailored to local need with no ‘one model fits all’.  As such the Council anticipates a range of different organisations operating in community libraries.  Each location is different and offers different opportunities for co-location. The Council will identify potential partners which may include:

  • Other council services
  • Other public services including health or education sector
  • Voluntary/community sector
  • Café/coffee shops/leisure
  • Re-provision in a wider redevelopment or nearby shared space

9.8  At least two community libraries will be offered to the voluntary sector in order to meet the demand for space in the borough.  Early discussions have indicated that there is interest from some local organisations in sharing the space.  The opportunity to co-locate with a library will be formally advertised in August 2015 with formal expressions of interest and assessment against clear criteria to follow.

9.9  The criteria used to assess the suitability of a potential partner will be based on the following:

  • best fit with library principles - universal access with no-one excluded directly or indirectly
  • contribution to library vision as set out in section 6.1
  • delivery of wider council/partnership priorities
  • delivering against unmet local need
  • maximise income
  • costs of implementation
  • delivery timescales
  • sustainable partnership

9.10  If a community partner cannot be found to share the library space the Council will need to consider alternative service delivery models.

9.11  It is noted that Ponders End library is due to be re-provided as part of the Ponders End regeneration scheme

9.12  Millfield and Angel Raynham libraries are already co-located. There are no changes proposed for Millfield House. It is proposed the Council advises the school that the Angel Raynham library will no longer be staffed. This is an early years library which has been superseded by a recent redevelopment of the school library.

9.13  A clear service level agreement will be set out for each co-location partner setting out the agreed opening hours of the building and the standards of operation expected to support universal access to library services.  Each community library will be supported by a community library co-ordinator, a permanent member of the library staff who will ensure training, advice and specialist support is offered to people working/volunteering in the co-located space. It is anticipated that as a minimum the following will be available:

  • Access to the library system and the ability to book/reserve/renew resources and pay (using cards only)
  • Pick up reserved items/return items
  • At least 2 public access PCs
  • Free wifi with space for study
  • A selection of quick choice resources

9.14  The mobile library will end with existing users (and newly identified users who cannot attend a physical library) offered an expanded Home Library Delivery Service (to include care homes) which will be supported by volunteers. Other outreach will be delivered through the following:

  • Continuing to develop and promote online library services.
  • Explore the development of Ipad loans for socially excluded people
  • Explore premium paid for library services
  • Delivering a range of community events and ‘pop-up libraries’ in communities with high or specific need.
  • Greater partnership with children’s centres
  • Schools library service to support schools in accessing library services
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