Review of Library Services – Let’s help them get it right

As part of ongoing efforts to ensure GCC do a better job this time round of formulating plans for our library service, former Assistant Head of the Gloucestershire library service and FoGL member John Holland has prepared a guidance document for a review of the service.

As well as drawing on John’s wealth of experience in public libraries management, the document is also based on best practice by other authorities undertaking library reviews, the findings of Charteris reports to DCMS, and advice from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.

The document has been sent to Councillors Hawthorne and Noble, GCC Chief Executive Pete Bungard, and current Library Services Manager Sue Laurence.

We hope they find it useful – it is essential that they get it right this time.


Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries

Review of Gloucestershire Library Service – December 2011

The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries strongly recommends that the new review of library services in Gloucestershire is undertaken by an independent organisation. Any review, whether undertaken by GCC or an independent organisation, should include the following elements-

1. A strategic plan for the future to be provided, which includes a meaningful statement of service aims and what the service is trying to achieve. This to include a commitment to the future of the library service. (Wirral Dec 2009; Vaizey Dec 2010)

2. The review and the resulting service to comply with the 1964 Public Libraries & Museums Act and the 2010 Equality Act.

3. The provision of a thorough analysis of local needs, including the general and specific needs of adults and children who live, work and study in Gloucestershire.(Vaizey Dec 2010)

4. A detailed description of how the service will be delivered and how the plans will take fully into account both the demography and the different needs of adults and children in different areas (both in general and specific terms). (Vaizey Dec 2010)

5. Priority to be given to the most deprived areas in the county. (Wirral 2009)

6. Priority to be given to the needs of children. (Wirral 2009)

7. Priority to be given to adults and children with specific needs in line with the most recent equalities legislation eg older people, children, people with disabilities, unemployed people, people in residential homes, and housebound people. This to be reflected in an Equality Impact Assessment. (Wirral 2009)

8. As well as the factors above, the provision of public library buildings and mobile libraries and their opening times to be based on-

  • Current catchment populations
  • Future catchment populations in relation to residential development
  • Current levels of use including visits, loans and PC use
  • Current service costs
  • Comparisons of performance against cost
  • Geographic spread of libraries
  • Consideration of public transport issues, particularly in rural communities
  • Consideration of current travel routes and population movement to shopping centres etc
  • Consideration of the environmental impact of any proposals
  • Consideration of the current library buildings in relation to their condition, suitability, DDA access issues, maintenance costs, location, parking and potential for partnership
  • Opportunities for libraries in communities which currently have no building
  • Community consultation (see above)

9. A stated budget sufficient to provide a library service in line with the 1964 Public Libraries Act, and be of at least the national average for English shire counties based on population and in line with good national practice. This to apply to the stock fund specifically, as well to the budget overall. A range of budget options to be considered and consulted on.

10. Any community-run libraries to remain part of the GCC library network as statutory public libraries.

11. Consideration of the impact and costs of specialist services such as Home Link, Share a Book, the housebound service, services for people with visual impairment, Ask Us, etc.

12. Stated adequate staffing levels (including numbers and percentages of professional qualified librarians) which allow for good customer service and the marketing and promotion of the service and its stock.

13. A plan for, and commitment to, a comprehensive outreach service (including community and customer engagement), and staffing levels which allow for the marketing and promotion of the service and its stock. (Wirral 2009)

14. Consideration of current service strengths and weaknesses.

15. Consideration of current local, council and national drivers for public libraries.

16. Consideration of how IT can improve customer services, efficiency and cost effectiveness e.g.  self-service, 24/7 online service, email, texting, digitisation, social networking, etc, together with a budget to allow the continued investment in IT.

17. Consideration of staff training and development needs and an on-going commitment to this.

18. An assessment of any partnership arrangements which can be put in place to achieve the aims of the library service and the county council in relation to both the provision (including co-location) of buildings and the joint provision of services. Partners with compatible aims to be identified.

19. Consideration of income generation opportunities.

20. Consideration of the use of volunteers to extend services.

21. Provision of a Marketing and Consultation Plan to include –

  • A survey of how customers currently use libraries
  • A survey of customer satisfaction levels
  • A survey of non-customers to establish the reasons for non-use
  • An assessment by survey of what customers and potential customers find to be the benefits and potential benefits of library use
  • A survey of customer views on the patterns of opening times
  • A range of options (with budgetary information for each) to be consulted on
  • Following the initial draft recommendations of the review, a meaningful survey to establish the response to the proposals, and on site community consultation meetings for any communities affected by the proposals. The recommendations to be amended in response to public response.

22. A transparent plan with time scales for the implementation of the review proposals.

23. An assessment of the resources needed to undertake a review.

24. An assessment of risks.

25. Transparency and honesty in all dealings with local communities, customers, councils, councillors, staff, partners, campaigners and the media.


1) Wirral 2009 = A local Inquiry into the Public Library Service provided

by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. Led by Sue Charteris for DCMS. September 2009.

2) Vaizey December 2010 = Letter to local authorities from Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries headed Spending Decisions and Library Services dated 3 December 2010. Ref CMS 160888/DC 

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One Response to Review of Library Services – Let’s help them get it right

  1. Pingback: Friends of Gloucestershire libraries: | Alan Gibbons’ Blog

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