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Borough of Poole proposes changes to Mobile Library service

Borough of Poole’s Communities Overview & Scrutiny Committee last night agreed to defer the decision on whether new services will be installed to replace the existing Mobile Library.

The recommendation is to defer the decision until the middle of next year, to allow more time for alternative providers to plan how they would establish and run community libraries. 

The Mobile Library in Poole is currently used by 191 residents in areas where there are no branch libraries, as well as providing a library service to 154 residents living in sheltered housing and residential homes. The current cost of the service is £50,000 per year. 

Widespread public consultation was carried out with both users and non-users of the Mobile Library, the results of which were used to plan how library services will continue to be able to be offered. The new services proposed will provide small community-run libraries in outlying locations, run by residents and volunteers in the heart of the community, with a supply of books, training, advice and support from Poole Libraries. 

In addition, there are plans to expand the Home Library Service delivered by the Royal Voluntary Service to support customers in sheltered housing and residential homes who currently use the Mobile Library. This bespoke service delivers books and other resources, and will continue and expand as the needs of users change. 

A downloadable audio book service and an e-book service, both of which are free to use and do not require a visit to either a static or mobile library, are also already available, alongside comprehensive information and reference services available to library members through the library web pages. 

Cllr Jane Pratt, Chairman of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Borough of Poole said: “We believe the alternative services we plan to offer will improve the service reach of public libraries to local communities in Poole. It has been very encouraging and heart warming to see the amount of interest from community groups and facilities to run a community library which would replace the Mobile Library stops. These new libraries will ensure residents have access to a library service in the heart of their community, which will provide additional opportunities for socialising with other local people whilst returning and taking out new books.

“We recognise however that time is needed to ensure that the community libraries work to the best of their potential, which is why we have recommended that the final decision is deferred until we are happy with the alternative services.”

Cllr Xena Dion, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Libraries, Borough of Poole, said: “I welcome the recommendation to Cabinet from the committee to defer the decision on the halting of the Mobile Library service. There is considerable work taking place between our library services and community groups and facilities who have expressed an interest in providing a community library, and we are keen to ensure that any alternative provision is given every support in running such a service to ensure it works well for local residents.

“However, once this work has taken place, we believe the alternative services we plan to offer will, when fully installed, improve the reach of public libraries to local communities in Poole.” 

The recommendation will now be presented to Cabinet on 9 December 2014.