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.