Future of library van service up for debate – as council assures public ‘will still receive a comprehensive service’
Less than 180 people took part in a recent survey over the future of Wrexham’s mobile library service.
Pre-covid the library van was the second busiest branch after Wrexham Library, visiting 71 stops in the county borough on a three week rota.
However in autumn 2020 the mobile library was replaced with a Covid-safe ‘pop-up’ service, which involved a temporary library being set up at various venues across the county borough on certain days.
In July Wrexham Council launched a public consultation over scrapping the mobile library and continuing permanently with pop-up service in communities with suitable venues – along with offering an order and delivery service to residents who don’t have a branch library that’s accessible by public transport.
The local authority also believe that this will offer a greener and more environmentally friendly service, helping it achieve the goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.
178 people took part in the process, the majority of which live in a part of Wrexham that does not have a “static library”.
Of those who took part 40.94% used the mobile library service pre covid and 68.07% of overall participants had not used the pop-up library.
However 58.18% said they would be interested in using the service in future.
On Wednesday members of the council’s customers, performance and resources scrutiny committee will discuss the outcome of the consultation and the council’s proposals to scrap the library van service.
A report due before the committee notes that there are several benefits to continuing with the pop-up and home delivery services, including:
- Working in partnership with Community Agents and Community Councils
- Utilising community venues as a delivery / collection centre for library items
- Greater coverage and reach across Wrexham County Borough to residents
- More sustainable and COVID safe service
- Greener and cleaner service investing in an electric vehicle
However disadvantages to scrapping the mobile library are also listed, including how it will impact on the council’s “performance in relation to the Welsh Library Public Library Standards” and that spaces currently providing the pop-up service may introduce a charge for room/venue hire in the long-term.
The report states: “The mobile library has been a much used and valued service over the years; and although library customers have adjusted to the ‘order and deliver service’ and ‘Pop-Up Library Service’, there are many that consider these arrangements temporary and expect to see the mobile library back in service as society gradually unlocks.
“There will be a need to manage the communications on this issue to avoid anxiety being raised. As customers need to be reassured that they will still receive a comprehensive service; and in many communities in partnership with Community Agents and Community Councils could see additional services where the mobile library has previously not visited.”
It adds: “Wrexham Library Service anticipated that majority of our regular mobile library customers who are accessing the ‘Pop-Up Library Service’ are content with the delivery model.
“We expect that some of our Mobile Library customers are now accessing their local branch library. It is inevitable that that some of our Mobile Library customers have made other arrangements to source their reading material for leisure, pleasure, and educational purposes.
“Since the pandemic many of our residents, customers and council employees have sought alternative ways and methods to access services and resources.
“For some of our residents, customers and council employees the alternative method to access Wrexham library services and resources allows 24/7 flexibility to engage with services and resources at a time and location that suits them, whilst also having the option to physically access their local branch library during their public opening hours.”
The report will be considered by councillors at the customers, performance and resources scrutiny committee at 2:30pm on Wednesday 29 September. The meeting will also be streamed on the Wrexham Council website.
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