Our public libraries are changing. Surrey County Council wants to secure the future of a popular service against tough budget constraints. In the next 18 months it will look at a range of proposals. Increasing cooperation with community groups such as local Citizens Advice could make a big contribution. We look at the potential for cooperation and a new valuation of library services.
Surrey is committed to retaining library services in all the communities in serves. According to Surrey Matters* it is planning a modernisation programme alongside communities, local partners and library users.
Among the options to be considered are:
At Citizens Advice Reigate & Banstead we are pleased to support this development. We believe it important to our clients and the whole community. Recently we have begun researching library-Citizens Advice links as well as working with individual libraries on specific projects. Read more.
We think partnerships of this kind add value to both.
Both are available to all, free of charge. Both are important conduits for official information and services. Both know how to manage and motivate volunteers. Both help people lead more fulfilled lives.
Already there are successful examples of libraries hosting local Citizens Advice services (point 3 above). Arguably there is also potential for: shared technology (point 1), attracting new services (point 4), when relocation is on the table (point 5) or creating a new Community Library (point 6).
Hosting CA services need not extend to sharing space. For example, many local Citizens Advice hold outreach advice sessions in public places convenient for their clients. In Reigate and Banstead we work alongside a community hub in Merstham, a church in Tadworth, and a community centre in Horley. In the past our volunteers have worked in a GP practice and a prison.
Suffolk Libraries value research.
In the context of budget cuts, Suffolk Libraries commissioned research on the value of some of their services**. They were worried that an old-fashioned, ‘stuffy’ image meant they were under-valued. Their CEO said of the research findings: “They suggest that not only are libraries a rallying point for those who have been lost in an ever more remote world, but they also have a significant positive effect on wider public health.”
The services they researched were those for pre-school children, over-55s and people interested in improving their well-being and mental health.
* Modernising Surrey libraries to be more accessible for all, Surrey Matters, 20/11/19 ** Changing the library narrative, Libraries Connected, November 2019