Plans to reduce Norfolk library opening hours unveiled
People are to be asked when they want their libraries to open under Norfolk County Council proposals to reduce opening hours by 10pc to save money.
Norfolk County Council today (Wednesday) pledged to keep all its libraries open as it launched a public consultation on changes to the opening hours.
The plans have been drawn up following the Norfolk Big Conversation consultation which ran between October 2010 and January 2011 where people could suggest ways the council can plug an estimated funding gap of �155 million over the next three years.
The county council has always said that none of its 47 libraries would close as part of its cost savings measures, but the reduced library opening hours proposal could help towards the �1.49 million saving expected of the library service over three years.
The options for reducing opening hours have been drawn up following a consultation with the libraries' staff and are based on the times when each library is least busy. As well as asking for views on the options the library service can afford within its budget, the consultation also invites people and groups to come forward with suggestions for ways communities can work together with their local library to maintain and support the service.
James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services on Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have a fantastic library service in Norfolk of which we can be proud, and this came through loud and clear in the Big Conversation. We have always understood how valued libraries are and the important role they play in their local communities in promoting literacy, tackling exclusion and social isolation, and giving access to a wide range of information. Public libraries have an important place in Norfolk life, and we're committed to keeping it that way. This is why we pledged to keep all our libraries open and still run by Norfolk County Council, and this is what we've done.
'Making reductions to opening hours at all our libraries is a good solution to help make savings that came out of the responses to the Big Conversation. The options we're proposing, different for each library, will ensure that communities still have access to their local library at the times when our user information shows they are most in demand. For some libraries, the proposed options would see their hours reduce by only a couple of hours a week and on average the reduction across the county is around three hours and 45 minutes per week.
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'We have arrived at the options we're suggesting by talking to staff in our libraries and looking at patterns of use, but it's really important to us that we get the views of the people who use libraries, and anyone with any interest for that matter. All the responses will be taken into consideration before the final revised hours are announced in July. It would be great also to hear from any parish and town councils, community groups or individuals who are keen to work with us to support their local library – please do get in touch, whatever your suggestion and whatever you have to offer, no matter how big or small it may seem.'
• You can pick up consultation form from every library, respond online at www.surveymonkey.com/norfolk-libraries-consultation. The deadline for responses is midnight on Monday, 13 June and a final decision will be made in July before the revised opening hours come in during October this year.
Groups and individuals who wish to discuss ways they can support their local library can contact Jennifer Holland, Head of Libraries at Norfolk County Council, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2UA or email email@example.com.