Library Consultation

Consultation helps to shape future library service

Northumberland residents’ views on the county’s library service are helping to shape its future, following an extensive consultation. 
The consultation was carried out between December 2019 and March 2020 with more than 5,000 people, both library members and non-members, responding. 
The findings of the consultation have given a clear insight into the views of not only residents but also staff and stakeholders on the strengths of the service, and areas for improvement. 
The County Council will now use the robust consultation to build a library service to meet the current and future needs of residents, developing a strategy for delivery. 
The self-completion survey was carried out both online and in paper format. It was supported with information drop-in sessions and telephone interviews. 
The results from the different consultation exercises across all audiences demonstrate the important role the Library service plays in the lives of the Northumberland residents, in particular amongst the county’s population of older persons and those who use the service regularly.  
In addition to the provision of books, computers and resources, the value of the Library service is that it provides a safe, inclusive, social space which is free to all members of the community. The key findings of the survey showed that: 
  • 88% of respondents rated the service as either excellent or good 
  • A third (34%) of respondents visit the library as part of their daily or weekly routine 
  • For 1 in 10 library users, the library is the main way that they access computers or the internet, and this rises to 46% of those who are out of work and looking for work. 
  • Three-quarters of library users with a child under the age of 11 visit the library to spend quality time with their children. 
  • 85% see the library as a space the community can use 
  • Over 90% of respondents agreed with the following statements 
  • The library staff are helpful  
  • I feel welcome in my local library  
  • My local library is a pleasant place to visit  
  • The staff at the library are knowledgeable  
  • It is easy to access my local library 
Building on the findings of the consultation a redesign of the service was approved by the County Council’s Cabinet this week. 
This will include establishing 5 Hub Libraries, serving each locality area. These would be based at Berwick, Blyth, Cramlington, Hexham and Morpeth. The hub libraries would co-ordinate provision based on local needs and demands in each area. Each hub would have flexible community space, offer the full range of IT resources and an events programme suited to the area. 
As well as the hub libraries it is also proposed the service will further improve its digital offer. During the Covid-19 pandemic the library service has responded with an enhanced digital offer for members including an extensive online library, as well as the development of virtual groups, events and activities which are helping to tackle loneliness and isolation and the introduction of a Digital Helpline for anyone in the county to use. 
Self-service kiosks will now also be rolled out into more libraries, a project which had to be delayed due to Covid-19. 
Cllr Jeff Watson, cabinet member with responsibility for Libraries said: “The extensive consultation we carried out last year has given us a clear view of what people and staff value most about the service. 
“We know for many people the library service is integral to their day-to-day life and this has been demonstrated even more acutely during the pandemic with staff continuing to play an important role in helping to make communities feel connected. 
“The findings of the consultation will now help us shape the service and put resources into the elements which came out strongest in the consultation, which was that the library service remains an important and valued part of the community. 
“The establishment of the library hubs will allow us to better co-ordinate what provision is needed in each area.” 
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