The county council is proposing to reduce opening hours across all 24 libraries by around 25 per cent on average, in a bid to reduce library running costs by around £500,000. This would help towards the library service’s savings target of £2million over the next three years.
The consultation starts on Monday, January 11 and residents will have 12 weeks to tell the authority how they use libraries and the impact the proposed changes would have on them.
“It’s really important that residents tell us what they think,” said Cllr Chris Dowling, lead member for community services. “We are having to make some really tough decisions to make an unprecedented level of savings over the next three years and are having to look at the way in which every service is delivered.
Library opening times will continue to vary from place to place, to meet local needs, but it is proposed that all libraries in East Sussex will generally not open before 10am or after 5pm However, libraries that currently open later than 5.30pm would retain one evening opening until 6pm, while those that open on a Saturday, will continue to do so.
The proposal has been developed using data collected from across the library service which shows that 85 per cent of visits to libraries, use of library computers and wifi, loans, renewals and returns take place between 10am and 5pm.
“A great deal of consideration has been given to how people are using the libraries across East Sussex,” Cllr Dowling added. “Usage of library buildings after 5pm is very low and therefore, reducing opening hours at quieter times has been the focus of our proposals. However, closing libraries at quieter times alone will not achieve the savings we need to make.
“With the further changes to opening hours we are proposing in this consultation, we believe we can make the required savings and continue to provide a comprehensive library service across the county.
“These are very much draft proposals and, while we have worked hard to get the right proposals for each library, we would like to hear if local communities feel that alternative patterns of opening would better suit local needs. I also welcome alternative proposals that would help us achieve the savings we need to make.”
No changes would be made to the e-library service, which allows members to access e-books and e-audiobooks and a range of free online reference material 24 hours a day. Members and non-members will still be able to make enquiries online or by phone 24 hours a day.
The proposals are part of a wider transformation programme for the county’s libraries, which Cabinet approved in December. They will make sure that the council can respond to the changing need for library services and ensure East Sussex has a modern and sustainable library service into the future.
To comment on the proposals, residents can visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay or pick up a questionnaire from their local library. The consultation will close on Sunday, April 3.
East Sussex County Council has to make savings of up to £90million between April 2016 and March 2019. This is due to reduction in grants and an increase in the number of people relying on council services. The savings expected over the next three years are on top of £78million the council has already saved since 2010.