11 June 2014

Celebrating city's successful libraries

More than one million people visited Brighton’s Jubilee Library last year securing its place as the top performing library in the region and second most popular in the country.

The service attracted 17,000 new members last year and a survey concluded that library staff are the second most trusted profession after doctors!

But members of Brighton & Hove’s library team are not resting on their laurels.  The council has its sights firmly set on improving and enhancing the service to meet the growing needs of library users.

The Library Service has produced a plan setting out its priorities for the next 18 months. The plan has been produced following widespread consultation with library users and looks set to be endorsed by members of the Economic Development and Culture Committee.

If members endorse the plan, more consultation will be carried out before the final plan goes to full council for approval.

The plan ‘Broadening Horizons, Improving Lives, ’ demonstrates the value of public libraries and how they contribute to health and well-being, reading and literacy, learning, supporting elderly and vulnerable people and providing important, safe and trusted community spaces in local neighbourhoods.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s Library Service includes 12 community libraries, including the recently opened Woodingdean Library, a central library in Hove and the award winning - Jubilee Library in Brighton city centre.

In addition there is an Equal Access Service Centre based in Coldean Library which delivers services to residential accommodation and a Home Delivery Service for those who are housebound. A virtual library is available for those unable to visit or who want to access information online.

There are more than half a million items of library stock across the city including 40,000 audio-visual items and 45,000 rare books.

Last year the libraries purchased 50,000 new items of stock and issued well over 1 million items, averaging 66 per hour.

Libraries also provide free access to computer facilities for all members and Brighton & Hove has 217 public computers across the city, and a growing number of libraries now have wi-fi.

Research shows that 34% of library users have no home internet access and 32% are job seeking. Last year more than 35,000 people used the wi-fi in Jubilee Library.

Services for children remain popular and last year saw 32,441 children attending 1,786 different events ranging from homework clubs and class visits to baby boogie and the summer reading challenge.

Adult literacy services were equally popular with 629 people attending reading and writing workshops.

To prepare of the future and to meet to needs of library users, the council carried out regular and detailed research and consultation. This included surveys in libraries, focus groups, feedback from events and activities and customer comments.

Future plans include developing local libraries as community hubs and expand partnership with other agencies, develop services for vulnerable people and to increase support for people using the internet, helping them to access services online.

Compared with other similar local authorities, the Jubilee is already rated the most popular, best value and second highest for items in stock. However, the council plans to improve stock further and widen activities to encourage reading.

Plans also include developing the Home Delivery Service to provide library services and improve the quality of life for those unable to get out without support.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee said:

“It’s wonderful to see how our libraries have evolved from places to borrow books to providing a doorway to the World Wide Web.

They continue to enrich people’s lives in so many ways, providing a safe, welcoming and stimulating environment for everyone - from the very young, through to the ‘Silver Surfers.’

“Against a national climate when the news so often is of local authorities closing libraries, our neighbourhood libraries continue to have a strong community focus, bringing people together while housebound and vulnerable residents are reached through our delivery service.  Most importantly, all our libraries remain open!

“And all this for around 32p per week per person - less than a pint of milk!

"We are delighted that our library services continues to be rated so highly, and that we have been able to expand the service even further carrying out refurbishments and opening our new library at Woodingdean,” added Councillor Bowden.

 “We would urge residents, local organisations, groups and services to get actively involved in the next round of consultation to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of all our communities and that we continue to represent good value for money.”