Kent’s mobile library service is proposed to be redesigned with the aim of providing a more efficient service at a lower cost to the county council.
The proposals were discussed at a meeting of KCC’s Growth and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday (12 January), and are in the context of the significant financial pressure that KCC faces.
At this meeting it was endorsed that the proposals should progress to public engagement.
At the moment, the 11 mobile libraries make 651 stops at a cost of more than £367,000 per year to Kent council taxpayers. KCC has analysed the performance of this service over the last year.
Some of the stops had very low levels of use and KCC is therefore proposing to reduce the number of stops, focusing on improving the service where it is well used while ensuring all customers have the means to access the library service.
KCC now wants to hear the views on its proposals from those who use the mobile library service and other Kent residents. It will then consider this feedback before making any decisions about the future of this service.
The findings of the analysis shows that 368 stops had an average of two visitors or less and that 50% of the mobile library users were already using one of our library buildings in addition to using the mobile.
Our proposals would we estimate still cover 80% of the current level of mobile visits.
KCC’s Libraries, Registration and Archives service has looked at alternative ways to provide the service to those customers who are potentially impacted by this proposal.
These alternatives include the Home Library Service, which allows customers to order a book and have it delivered to their home
The proposed new routes will see more than 50 percent of the proposed stops increasing their stopping time and see the service moving to a Tuesday-Saturday schedule to mitigate the impact of bank holiday Mondays as well as moving to a fortnightly schedule for all mobile stops.
These proposed changes are estimated to save Kent County Council £150,000 a year.
Mike Hill, KCC Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “The county council fully appreciates the value of its library service and is committed to providing the best service we can.
“We have to accept the financial reality that savings have to be made and review all KCC services to ensure that we focus our services where people are using them and adapt accordingly. It is only right that we keep our services under review and make best use of our resources.
“It is clear that many of the stops we currently make are not a good use of taxpayers’ money. Nevertheless, we want to ensure everyone has access to a library service and have shaped the proposals to ensure this is fully considered.”
KCC now wants to engage with local residents and service users and will be launching a six-week customer engagement on 22 January, running until 4 March 2016.
All information on the proposal will be available from this date including information on how each mobile stop currently visited could be affected.
The current users of the mobile library service will be contacted directly and will be able to respond via a freepost address; copies of the proposals will also be available on all the mobile vehicles as well as available online at www.kent.gov.uk/consultations.
All comments will be taken into consideration.