Public views will shape future of Aberdeenshire libraries
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A survey seeking views on future library provision in communities around Aberdeenshire is now live.
As part of the council’s budget-setting process, savings were identified for the library service and the possibility of the closure of some facilities in smaller villages was outlined.
Since then, Live Life Aberdeenshire said it has been working hard to look at alternative ways of achieving savings by taking a broader view of how library services are provided.
The needs of individual communities and how customers want to access services is at the forefront of this, as are opportunities to deliver services in different ways.
It is hoped that new opening hours, combined with a focus on what customers need from their library, can generate the savings required with minimal impact on community life.
For example, where communities identify a low requirement for physical library services, alternative provision such as postal services, services delivered from other local premises or outreach work could be considered.
Communities are encouraged to give their views on local libraries via the survey, which will then inform future decisions by councillors.
It asks when people are most likely to use their library, the services they would most like to see delivered in the local community and why people may not use their local library.
Local focus groups will also be organised to seek face-to-face feedback.
In addition to this, library usage will be monitored in detail over the next year, including information such as issues per hour, visitors per hour and use of computers per hour.
Where there is no significant change in library use over the year, the potential for reductions in or withdrawal of services will be consulted upon further.
Interim head of service for Live Life Aberdeenshire Avril Nicol said: “It’s been a decade since public opening hours across the library estate were reviewed.
"We know customer habits have changed significantly over that time and that our existing arrangements may no longer suit the needs of our communities.
“With that in mind, we have been consulting with staff and now we want to hear from communities and stakeholders to look at what might work best for our customers in the future within available budgets.”
The council said through this process a better understanding will be gained of how best to make use of the library estate across Aberdeenshire to provide a modern, fit-for-purpose library service.
Libraries and information services manager Sharon Jamieson said: “By looking at how we can deliver services differently, coupled with making sure our opening hours and staff hours meet local needs, we will be in a better position to achieve savings without closure being the first or only option.
“We understand the role of libraries in our communities and how important they are to the people of Aberdeenshire.
"We also understand that the modern age means people’s needs in terms of library services is changing.
"Users, non-users, the voluntary sector, staff – all of these groups will have a chance to have their voice heard during this engagement process.”
The survey runs until the end of February and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ABSLIBRARIES
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