We Heart Libraries presentation to Herts CC

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Presentation given to Hertfordshire County Council libraries transformation topic group, December 14 2012, on the impact of cuts to library opening hours.

Presentation given to Hertfordshire County Council libraries transformation topic group, December 14 2012, on the impact of cuts to library opening hours.

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  • 1. WeLibraries: who we are Founded in February 2011 following the realisation that no groups were advocating locally for library services and nothing had been planned in North Herts or Stevenage for that years National Libraries Day.
  • 2. WeLibraries: who we are Mission is to be a critical friend of Hertfordshire Library Service, to champion the North Herts and Stevenage libraries among the public and decision makers, and to remain independent of any political party.
  • 3. WeLibraries: who we are Engaged around 300 people in National Libraries Day events held in Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock in February 2012. Has a mailing list of around 60 people, and around 300 followers on social media sites.
  • 4. WeLibraries: who we are Organised successful events including a talk by romance novelist Freya North for the Letchworth Festival in 2012, a World Book Night giveaway in Hitchin and the NLD12 events mentioned earlier
  • 5. WeLibraries: who we are Submitted evidence the the Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Media and Sports recent inquiry into library closures. Campaigned on issues including the Herts Schools Library Service closure, library opening hours and the use of volunteers to replace paid staff in libraries.
  • 6. How we know what were talking about Our evidence is compiled from a number of sources: Feedback gathered during National Libraries Day earlier this year Personal experience and contacts with other library users and stakeholders Direct appeals for user opinions via a number of channels – social media, our email list, the local press and outreach to interested groups
  • 7. The numbers The number of active borrowers is down more than 11 per cent. That is, quite literally, a decimation of the active user base. Libraries are, of course, about more than just borrowing books – they are information hubs and centres of knowledge in many forms. But the figures for visits to libraries are worse, down by more than 20 per cent.
  • 8. The research James Axiom: library usage increases during times of economic difficulty. Tested by recent academic study. Key findings: More people use libraries during the recession, particularly for job-seeking activities, advice and training Difficult economic times provide libraries with opportunities to promote their free and low-cost activities
  • 9. The research A flourishing library service is a net economic benefit to its community. In one case study conducted in Bolton, it was found that for every £10 spent on the museums, archives and library service, £16 worth of value was generated.
  • 10. The comments People understand the reasons for the hours reductions – but they dont always feel they were handled well Typical comment: “I understand the need for cuts and money saving but I think the opening hours could have been much more user friendly.”
  • 11. The comments Video evidence from library users - useful but flawed By speaking to people in libraries it misses hearing the voices of the people who used to be regular library users, and now cannot visit because of the reduction in hours. Our hope was that we could ensure they had a say at this meeting – and many have contacted us.
  • 12. The comments “Ive hardly used my local library in Harpenden since the new opening hours were introduced” “Neither of us can borrow books or magazines for ourselves or our 2 children.” “I used to use the library during my lunch hour at work as did some of my colleagues, now we cannot do that”
  • 13. The comments “Often, elderly people are there, complaining bitterly that it doesnt suit bus timetables from villages, especially on Thursdays.” “Since the change of hours, I have visited Hitchin library twice - and found it closed each time” “Since the Friday closure I have never visited the Library.”
  • 14. Council objectivesLibraries: assist job-seekers, the self employed and people whose first language is not English achieve economic well-being offer the elderly opportunities to live a fulfilling independent life
  • 15. Council objectivesLibraries: are essential to childrens education – particularly from low income families – and help ensure a positive childhood build culture, community and cohesion, contributing in this way to safe neighbourhoods
  • 16. National Libraries Day feedbackPoints repeatedly made included: Relief that Hertfordshire had experienced no branch closures and hope that this would remain the case. Dismay over the hours cuts and, in some cases, hope that they could be reversed in future. A strong feeling of ownership of and engagement with the library service, and of having a personal stake in its future (a large number of users).
  • 17. Conclusions The reductions in opening hours have had a significant and damaging effect in library usage, demonstrated by both statistical evidence and user comment The voices of former users who now cannot visit libraries are in danger of being overlooked by feedback methods that are purely branch-based
  • 18. Conclusions The loss of library hours is not only about the loss of access to books. Modern libraries are hubs for all forms of information, staffed by trained professionals who can help guide users through an increasingly-complex knowledge economy
  • 19. Finally... Image: Daniel Solis