Libraries in Lincolnshire are facing up to £2 million budget cuts as Lincolnshire County Council attempt to make savings.
Under new proposals, the council is consulting which libraries to scale down, reduce hours or replace with a mobile service in parts of the county.
More than 170 jobs could also go if proposals are approved, as the plans include reducing front line posts from 298 currently to 128 positions.
In a report for the County Council’s Communities Scrutiny Committee on June 26, councillors will have to decide how to alter library services in order to make them more financially viable.
One of the Council’s obligations is to provide Lincolnshire residents with a library service.
At present, it manages 44 static libraries, plus four different types of mobile library services and an online service.
Running these services are 313 staff in total and around 316 volunteers.
Under the new plans, only 15 libraries would remain under council management.
A council analysis found that due to cuts in council funding, the current library provisions were financially inefficient.
It also found that only around 18% of Lincolnshire residents were actively using library services in the county.
A new libraries model
The proposals would break up the county libraries into four different tiers, relating to their current usage.
Tier one will see 10 libraries, including Lincoln Central Library, Boston, Gainsborough, Grantham Louth and Sleaford, remain fully staffed, open 50 hours a week and offer the full range of library services and activities.
Tier two means five static libraries in the county are fully staffed and offer the same variety of services but are only open 25 hours per week.
Tier three has two options proposed, which councillors will have to decide on.
One option is to give local communities in the areas affected £5,167 per annum to operate a library with minimum six opening hours per week, plus up to 4,000 books and the option of either having the People’s Network or providing their own ICT facilities.
The second option is that the County Council’s Super Mobile stops off at areas affected for four hours every two weeks at specific times, with a single staff member. These library vans would stock up to 4,000 books, and have web access. This service would cost £5,167 per annum per community too.
Tier four sees 66 communities of between 100 and 549 households get a monthly one hour stop from a library vehicle offering books and internet access.
Additionally, a library service website will allow residents to search the library catalogue, reserve stock and access online resources such as family tree services and driving theory test mock exams.
Should councillors approve these proposals on June 26, executive members will then look into starting a public consultation from July 3, running until September 30.
Changing library habits
Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for libraries, said: “The way in which libraries are used is changing, not just in Lincolnshire, but across the country.
“In Lincolnshire, 82% of the population are not active borrowers, and book stock issued in the county in the last 10 years has dropped from 5 million to under 3 million.
“Smartphones, tablets, Kindles and new technology are changing the way we do things.
“The library service is changing, like it or not, and our vision for the future of the service is a comprehensive one, but one that remains both affordable and efficient.
“Despite the need for change, our ambition is to keep all of Lincolnshire’s libraries open. However, this is only going to work with the support of our local communities.
“We will support residents and organisations that step forward and lend a hand. And by getting them more involved we think we can actually create a library service that’s better tailored to each community’s individual needs.
“Successful changes have already taken place at a number of libraries, such as Saxilby and Waddington, improving services and getting better value for money. There’s no reason why this won’t work elsewhere – providing that’s what local people want.
“A consultation will help us gauge whether that appetite is there.”
Library services in peril
A survey by Unison this week has described library services as “in peril” due to such savings by local councils.
According to the survey of 2,000 paid library staff across the country, 60% of staff have seen full-time job losses, and 54% have seen a reduction in part-time posts.
Additionally, one-third report that libraries have reduced their opening hours, while a third also introduced charges for services previously provided for free.
Libraries are reporting that services such as outreach with local schools, home library services and school holiday activities are seeing the highest decline due to cuts.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government, said: “For more than 100 years libraries have been at the heart of our communities.
“They’ve inspired people to learn, helped parents on low incomes get their children interested in books, made it possible for people without a home computer to apply for work, and reached out to give elderly people a sense of community.
“But all this is now at risk. Libraries are being turned into businesses and UNISON is calling for urgent action to protect them as a vital public service for communities now and in the future.”