Cllr Estella Tincknell, a former city librarian, says that now might be a good time to review the way we use the city’s libraries, but the Mayor needs to prove that the whole review process is not a smoke screen for achieving cuts of £1.2m.
Councillor Tincknell, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Arts and Culture said:
“As a librarian I was aware on a day to day basis that our regular visitors were highly appreciative of the library service, but I was also conscious that few people from disadvantaged groups were among them – and they are the very people that Libraries could help by guiding them towards other council services or education or career opportunities.
“I want to see libraries working as community hubs which welcome a wide range of people and which offer a mix of information and other services to benefit all communities across the city,” she says.
Bristol City Council have begun a consultation with the public about what kind of libraries people want to see for the future. Some of our district library buildings are under-used and across the city taken as a whole only a minority of citizens use our libraries regularly.
“If we are serious about re-designing a library service fit for the 21st century we need to consult with people who don’t currently use their local library and ask what they want and would like to see on offer.
“Too often we see a process where only existing users are consulted or only those who have computers are asked for their opinion as they are easy to reach at little or no cost. We have Neighbourhood Partnerships and they should be involved.
“If some of our local libraries are to function as customer service points for the council as well, or as joint ventures with community centres for example, we need to know beforehand that there is a demand for this from local communities.
“It is also vital that the consultation does not perpetuate the exclusion of older and disadvantaged groups who do not have access to online facilities and may not want to come to meetings on dark winter nights. These may be the very people whose needs should be served by a re-imagined library service. We strongly urge all local people to look out for and take part in the Library consultation.”