New plan being developed for Northamptonshire libraries

St James library in Northampton
St James library in Northampton

The future of Northamptonshire’s library service is under review again, with some libraries possibly closing down before the end of the year.

A paper in the county’s financial rescue plan which was published this week has revealed the council’s thinking and has proposed changing from the current system to a community managed system.

Two months ago the authority lost a legal battle about its March proposal to turn 21 of its small and medium libraries into independent libraries.

The official ‘pause’ announced by the in-crisis authority in July has now been lifted and it is once again considering what it does with its 36 libraries.

This new plan proposes ‘to deliver budget savings through the transformation of library services’ and to ‘hand over and to support community groups to run a community-managed library service’.

It also talks of enhancing the library services through income generation and infrastructure development.

However, the three-page report has little detail of how the community-managed service will operate and has worried some campaigners.

Graham Croucher, a supporter of St James library in Northampton, said the library’s users have made clear to the authority that it is unlikely they will have enough volunteers to give a definite commitment to run the library.

He said: “The ball is now in their court. We have given them lots of ideas about how our library could continue to run, and have suggested that some of the bigger libraries take a bit of a hit and spread the costs across the libraries.”

The report says a library transformation team is needed, which will include recruiting two community library co-ordinators.

A principal surveyor and cad technician will also be employed to deal with the buildings. The authority owns 12 of its 36 libraries and the joint worth is more than £3m.

The report says that libraries will start to be handed over to community groups in November and the sale process of some will begin in December.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The county council has been conducting a new review of the library service, which involves working with community groups to discuss future changes.

“It is hoped a new proposal will be developed and over the coming months this will be taken to cabinet.

“The timetable for delivering any new model of library services will be dependent on future cabinet decisions and the required consultation process.

“No decisions have yet been made and the proposal will vary from library to library.”

Sarah Ward, Local Democracy Reporter