Extended opening hours and greater flexibility for users of Putnoe and Kempston Libraries are being cited as benefits of the LibraryPlus scheme that Bedford Borough Council is consulting on.
They are inviting comments, ideas and suggestions from users of the libraries and other stakeholders to the consultation, which closes on 23 April (or as bibliophiles will know, Shakespeare’s birthday).
Introduced at Bedford Central, Bromham and Wootton Libraries in 2017, LibraryPlus enables the council to maintain library services for its customers while reducing staffing costs – a casualty of the decade-long slashing of central government funding to local authorities.
Since 2017, over 12,000 library users have registered for LibraryPlus, which has meant increased overall opening hours, including Sunday and Bank Holiday opening at Bedford Central Library.
LibraryPlus provides a mixture of staffed hours as well as using technology to allow access to customers during unstaffed, self-service hours.
During the self-service hours, LibraryPlus customers can enter the libraries to browse the shelves, borrow and return items, use the computers, study and work, and meet friends and family.
Extending LibraryPlus to Kempston and Putnoe would enable these libraries to be open for more hours overall, at more convenient times, whilst still providing core staffed hours where library users can speak to and get assistance from staff.
To ensure that libraries are used safely, LibraryPlus uses a range of systems to support customers during self-service hours, including CCTV monitoring, help points and public announcements.
Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture said: “The introduction of LibraryPlus has been very successful at Bedford Central, Bromham and Wootton libraries, and I know all library users are looking forward to when we can reopen the libraries once restrictions start to ease.”
He said that opening hours at Bedford Central Library have increased from 48 to 60 hours per week since the system was introduced.
“The Council faces extremely challenging financial times,” continued Cllr McMurdo.
“By introducing the LibraryPlus model to Kempston and Putnoe libraries, with self-service hours alongside core staffed hours, we would be able to increase overall opening hours, while making the savings that we need to through reducing staffed hours.
“Before making changes to the library service it is important that we consult with those that use the libraries and other interested parties, and I would encourage everyone to have their say.”
To find out more and have your say on this proposal at visit bedford.gov.uk/lpconsultation. You can also firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Consulting Bedford, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, MK42 9AP
A statement from the Council said: “Given the restrictions currently in place every effort is being made to ensure people get the chance to share their views.
“This includes holding virtual meetings – details on these and how to sign up will be provided shortly on the Council website at bedford.gov.uk/lpconsultation.
“Hard copies of the consultation materials are available on request by phoning 01234 718178 (line open Monday to Saturday 11am-4pm).”
Responses must be received by Friday 23 April 2021. These will then be considered by the Council’s Executive at a meeting later this year.