An independent report which makes recommendations to help secure the future of Liverpool libraries is being considered by councillors.
The Library Advisory Task Group – chaired by the former President of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Jan Parry – was set up to look at ways to make libraries in Liverpool sustainable in the face of huge cuts in funding from Central Government.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson announced in March 2017 that he had reversed a planned £1.6 million reduction in the libraries budget over the next three years, but the council remains determined to find new ways of diversifying the service and making it less dependent on public subsidy.
The recommendations include:
• Introducing paid events and seeking sponsorship to generate income• Working with other library services across the city region, eg: introducing a single membership which can be used across all areas
• Co-locating with other organisations such as health centres to promote health and wellbeing
• Continuing to put on arts and cultural events
• Extending opening hours through self-service and generating income from online sales
• Setting up a volunteer-co-ordinator role to support activities in libraries
• Extending the Home Library Service for people who can’t get to a library building, perhaps across the city region
Jan Parry, Chair of the Library Advisory Task Group, said: “We were asked to apply new thinking, ideas and recommendations to help make sure the city has a vibrant, sustainable and high quality library service in the future.
“I would like to thank my fellow task group members and library staff for their suggestions and support which have helped shape this report, as it has been absolutely invaluable. We have also drawn on the experiences of other libraries, museums and other service providers around the world for inspiration.
“Standing still with no further change is not an option and more needs to be done to ensure that the city has a sustainable library service for the future. So I strongly recommend that any additional income generated by the Library Service is ring-fenced to ensure its sustainability into the future.
“It is also vital that is retains professionally qualified and experienced staff in order to ensure the service is delivered to a professional standard.
“I hope the ideas and recommendations are helpful to the Mayor and the council and enable it to continue to provide a high quality service for all communities into the future.”
Liverpool has 14 libraries and another five which are now managed by community organisations, meaning residents still have access to library membership and can order the full catalogue of books and other items.Assistant Mayor and Cabinet member for libraries, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “Liverpool is hugely proud of its library service, as we were one of the first cities in the country to have one, and they have always been hugely popular.
“In the face of huge cuts in our funding from Government we have worked hard to shield libraries as much as possible, while at the same time driving forward improvements such as the stunning new Central Library and the introduction of ebooks and free wifi.
“I very much welcome this report, which makes a number of creative and practical suggestions about ways we can diversify libraries. It is a blueprint which we can build on to ensure they have a secure future.”
The report will be considered by the Culture, Tourism and Events Select Committee on Tuesday 3 October.