Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet has approved plans to bring Bath’s Library and One Stop Shop together at the Podium in the city centre.
The changes are part of an upfront investment in the combined Library and One Stop Shop that the Council says will make the service sustainable for the future and ensure local library services meet the changing way people are using libraries. Community engagement will now start to work up a detailed design.
By investing in the library service now and integrating the Council’s library and customer service, this is expected to save the authority almost £400,000 a year towards an overall savings target of £800,000 from the Council’s Modern Libraries programme.
The decision to keep the Library in its current home was backed by 92 per cent of residents who took part in public consultation earlier this summer. The other option put forward in the consultation was to relocate the library to Lewis House on Manvers Street.
Councillor Karen Warrington, (Conservative, Clutton), Cabinet Member for Transformation & Customer Services, said: “We consulted extensively with local people over our modernisation programme and have listened to what residents have said about their preferred location for the library and One Stop Shop in the years ahead.
“The passion of the debate shows how much our library service is valued by residents. By investing in our library service and One Stop Shop now, we can ensure this service is both sustainable for the long-term and meets the needs of modern library users in the years ahead.
“The next step will now be engaging with a cross-section of residents and library and one stop shop users on the design and layout.”
Councillor Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, added: “I’m proud that, while other Councils are closing libraries, we are investing in our library service and finding innovative ways to make this service sustainable for the long-term. Like Keynsham, we would love to see an increase in the number of users – which has to be a good thing.”
As well as modernising the service to make the service sustainable and meet the needs of today’s library users, by integrating library and customer services the Council hopes to reach more people from all ages and backgrounds – providing a place where everyone in the community can access support, knowledge, culture and events.
A total of 1,891 people responded to the public consultation, details of which were shared on the council’s website, via social media, in libraries and one stop shops, GP surgeries, leisure centres, and children’s centres.
Steps were also taken to ensure that people from hard-to-reach groups were able to give their views. Full Council, Scrutiny and interest groups were also fed into the consultation process.
The Cabinet noted the outcome of the consultation; accepted the recommendation of the Podium as the location for the central Bath integrated library and One Stop Shop and approved capital spending of £330,000 for the next phase of the programme.
It also agreed the next phase will involve the appointment of architects and a programme of user and partner engagement for detailed designs and costings.
Councillor Richard Samuel (Walcot), who is the Lib Dem spokesperson on Customer Services, commented: “It’s clear that the public was asked to choose between two options and opted for the one which seemed to be the least worst.
“This consultation was not fit for purpose and the Cabinet’s handling of the process thus far has been a mess. The Cabinet have still not proved the case for co-locating these two services.
“Going forward, it is vital that the quality and integrity of the two services are maintained, with skilled staff being retained and a tight control being kept on costs. The proposed co-design process must be a genuine engagement with service users and not a box-ticking exercise.
“We remain unconvinced that there is enough space to properly accommodate the two services in the space available.
“I have called on the Cabinet to commit to full transparency and to reverse the recent lack of investment that has been detrimental to the Library Service.”
With a location for the Library and One Stop Shop now agreed, the Council has committed to engaging with a representative cross-section of the community to assist in the design of the layout in order to ensure that it meets local needs and be successful in encouraging wider use of the facility, especially from young people, disabled people, those from more deprived backgrounds, as well as those established library users.
B&NES Council says a cross-section of the community will also include representatives from Save Bath Library and staff groups.
It is anticipated that this phase will take place between November 2017 and May 2018.