Innovation Exchange

Review of Library Opening Hours

Introduction

Key activities

Benefits and impacts

Learning

Further Information

Library managers at North Ayrshire Council asked people of all ages for their views on opening hours at local branches to ensure that library opening times are aligned to the times when our customers are most likely to use them. This is in response to the increasing uptake of digital library services, changing patterns of use and the pressures on local authority finances. The library management systems metrics were used to inform a service-wide staff working group who identified the high-demand opening hours and a consultation process comprising of 13 public workshops.

Theme: Service Transformation

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Over the years a range of measures to match library costs with available funds has already been identified and implemented, including opportunities to increase income, co-location of services and a review of staffing levels. As staff costs currently account for 76% of the library budget a review of the opening hours of the 17 libraries across North Ayrshire was required. There was an aspiration for all libraries to remain open, to ensure accessible provision in each community.

 

Staff were fully involved in developing, and have been consulted about, these new proposals. It was set up with trade union and non-trade union membership across the staff grades. A subgroup has been tasked with using new, draft opening  hours to work up detailed staffing structures and working patterns based on some options which will be costed, prior to a public consultation. The library management system, computer bookings records and visitor counters indicated that reducing the hours at the beginning and in the evenings, as well as Saturday afternoons will have the least impact on customers. Six options were considered by elected members before proposing two models to the public.

 

An extensive programme of public consultation has been completed, including 13 public meetings in communities and an online consultation, with access to survey materials being facilitated in libraries where required. The consultation mandate was developed with the assistance of the Consultation Institute and library staff were trained by tCI as accredited consultation practitioners. Each meeting has access to the full data set on levels of usage over a 4 year period. This process was launched on 5th October and concluded on 16th December, 2015. A full report of each meeting and the results of the online consultation were posted in each library.

The meetings were attended by a total of 256 people, including elected members, and nearly 700 people replied online. Some key themes appeared:

  • Recognition of the quality of the library service and the value placed on it by communities;

  • Widespread understanding of the value of local libraries as community hubs;

  • Understanding of the current economic situation;

  • Willingness on the part of residents to discuss optimum opening hours for local libraries, to best reflect local demographics and needs;

  • Preference for a continued reflection of the current pattern of opening hours so that there is a mix of morning, afternoon, evening and Saturday hours; and

  • Public recognition that use of libraries in evenings is very low, but it was deemed important to retain some evening opening hours.

Library opening hours have been changed by 475 hours per week and this equates to a saving of £315,000 per year.

The consultation training, using the evidence base and working with staff to find the right solutions all contributed to a robust consultation programme. The time taken has produced a model which works for North Ayrshire communities.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:

 

Rhona Arthur

Senior Manager, Information and Culture

North Ayrshire Council

01294 324415

Case study added to site: June 2016

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