To consider the Cabinet’s recommendations in respect of the final version of the Library Strategy 2021 – 2026 and associated service offer.
Further to Minute No. 63 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 19th October, 2020 consideration was given to the report which set out in detail the vision and framework contained in the Library Strategy 2021–2026 and how the Strategy and new service offer would enable the Council to fulfil its statutory duty under the Public Library Act and meet the needs of the community through the delivery of the Libraries and Neighbourhood Hubs Service.
The Strategy and service offer had been finalised following feedback from the last phase of consultation, along with the Equalities Impact Analysis. All future delivery changes would. therefore, be underpinned by the Strategy. Particular attention was drawn to the exciting proposals to reopen the refurbished library at Kimberworth, relocate the Thurcroft Library to Gordon Bennett, the increased community partnership work with the new Brinsworth Library collaboration with the Parish Council working on some new models of management and access and the need for libraries to diversify.
Particular reference was made to the refurbished, relocated and newly opened libraries in the Borough, the action plans and Equality Impact Assessments and how the report reflected the thorough process this Strategy had followed. This report had already been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board and Cabinet and was now presented for approval by full Council.
Members welcomed this vibrant Strategy and some raised particular comments about the constraints of the Dinnington Library, why Aston Library was duly named when it was in Swallownest, the enhancements and relocation of Thurcroft Library and the success of the partnership approach to Brinsworth Library.
Whilst the majority of libraries were easily reached by communities, concern was expressed that some disadvantaged communities did not have a wonderful library to talk about which was disappointing for some.
The importance of volunteers and the work they did in supporting libraries was also emphasised.
Councillor Carter, however, expressed his concern about the transfer of Brinsworth Library and was of the view that the use of volunteers was the first step to removing professional operational staff and could lead to a reduction in usage. He provided an example of what had happened in Tinsley over the border in Sheffield. He saw no reason to invest in a new town centre library and believed the Council had failed in its relocation of the library to Riverside House. He believed it a waste of money and believed this was why the budgets could not be balanced over many years.
Councillor Steele expressed his surprise at Councillor Carter’s comments given the distinct lack of interest in the scrutiny process where he would have found in-depth knowledge had he attended the many meetings and sub-groups. He was happy to support the Library Strategy and valued Councillor Allen’s passion, commitment and protection to delivering libraries where others had slashed theirs.
This was echoed by Councillors Cusworth, Jepson, Read and Reeder, who welcomed the changes, the enthusiasm exhibited by staff, the resources and how the public could access these facilities during these economically difficult times. Councillor Carter’s lack of support was noted and comments corrected as the library in Rotherham was temporarily relocated to Riverside in 2010 as the Government scrapped the Regional Development Agencies. Rotherham’s libraries would continue to be staffed by professional staff and with the support of Future High Streets funding, would once again be relocated to the middle of Rotherham.
Councillor Allen in her right to reply highlighted the amount of work that had gone into the review and the Strategy and wished to place on record her own thanks to officers in Culture, Sport and Tourism and to Zoe Oxley who had worked tirelessly throughout. She went onto to address the comments made by Members, especially Councillor Carter of how Rotherham was enshrining the principle and investing in its communities. She welcomed the successes, especially in Kiveton with the Youth Service and would be more than happy to discuss this further.
It was also pointed out that many of Rotherham’s vulnerable residents could access the Home Library Service and 98% lived within 2 miles of a library building. She was unable to answer why Aston Library was named as such, but would endeavour to find out. In terms of the library in Dinnington Resource Centre and the constraints within the building with the relocation of the post office, Councillor Allen was happy to discuss issues further with the trustees how best the facilities could work together.
Resolved:- That the final version of the Library Strategy 2021-2026 and associated service offer be adopted.
Mover:- Councillor Allen Seconder:- Councillor Lelliott