Croydon Council is proposing to consult residents on changes to its library service that will make it easier for more people across the borough to enjoy books and activities. Proposals include longer opening hours including weekends, improved facilities in fewer library buildings, and more staff to provide a new outreach service.
A report to the council’s cabinet meeting next week details extensive research into the borough’s library service, following service reductions made since the council’s financial collapse in April 2020. The report can be found on the council website.
Since the changes were introduced, the council has been listening to residents and staff who have said that despite best efforts, the service model isn’t working – that it doesn’t provide the opening hours needed or enough of the services that residents want and need.
The cabinet report sets out the detailed research findings and proposed recommendations for a more sustainable library service. It proposes longer opening hours including weekends, with more events and services available to residents, by reducing the number of buildings and investing in well-used sites. No job losses are proposed, with the council intending to use the majority of the money saved from building costs to increase the number of library staff to provide the extended opening and outreach services. Cabinet will be asked for approval to start consultation on the proposals.
To make these improvements, four library buildings; Bradmore Green, Broad Green, Sanderstead, and Shirley are proposed to be closed. This proposal is based on analysis of the buildings including visitor numbers, size and condition of the buildings, the size and needs of the communities they serve and running costs.
Six libraries (Central, Ashburton, Thornton Heath, Norbury, Selsdon and Coulsdon) are proposed to be open five to six days a week, including Saturdays, and will deliver an extensive offer of books, wifi, PCs, study spaces and events. These libraries have all proved to be well-used, accessible buildings that meet local needs. Future investment in these sites is recommended to improve the facilities and extend the opening times and services available.
Activist’s research found three areas — New Addington, Purley and South Norwood — need library services, but low visitor numbers suggest the current set-up isn’t working. The council is proposing to introduce community hubs in these areas, where a library would be available alongside other services such as family and adult education services and community partnerships.
Through the consultation, residents will be asked for their views and ideas for developing the offer in New Addington, Purley and South Norwood to help design how library services can be improved in these areas, to make them more accessible and better used by local people.
Other library services – such as the home library service and the extensive digital offer, including e-books and magazines, online learning and training resources – are set to continue and be improved as part of the future service.
A 10-week consultation is set to launch after cabinet and residents are encouraged to have their say on the proposals and share their ideas for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the library service. Details will be available from Croydon libraries and on the council’s Get Involved website.
The council is keen to hear the views of those affected by the proposed library closures, including any impacts and alternative options to closing buildings and improving the service for residents. The consultation will also ask for ideas for future library outreach services and community venues that could be used to reach more people. Feedback received will help the council develop further recommendations which will go back to cabinet in May 2024.