Consultation (closed)

Background information

Devon Libraries is currently a network of 50 static libraries, four mobile libraries, three prison libraries (funded by the National Offender Management Service) and a range of online and outreach services.

The purpose of the service is to support people of all ages with their reading, learning and information interests, and to provide a safe, welcoming community space; all free at the point of access.

Devon Libraries has already been re-modelled significantly in response to reduced budgets, changing demand, technological developments and the recognition of libraries’ role as trusted community spaces.

Over the past four years we have developed Cullompton and Newton Abbot libraries into community hubs known as Devon Centres. These incorporate a modern library and other services such as adult learning, cafes, work hub facilities for businesses and facilities for adults with learning disabilities.

Exeter Library will open as a third Devon Centre in May 2014 and will offer independent living training facilities for adults with learning disabilities, facilities for vulnerable families needing support and enterprise advice for businesses.

A report went to Cabinet on 9 April 2014 outlining proposed changes to the way in which library services could operate in Devon. This formed the basis for public consultation and stakeholder engagement.

Use of the website has increased by more than 30% in the past three years as more transactions and services, such as e-books, have been made available online. Physical visits to libraries have declined by 7% in the past 12 months and by 17% over the past five years.

The 10 busiest libraries account for over 50% of total library use when measured by visits and loans. Exeter and Barnstaple together generate approximately 25% of total use.

Loans of books have decreased by 8% in the past 12 months and by 16% over the past five years. E-books have generated over 50,000 loans since they were introduced in June 2012 and we expect that this will continue to grow.

Our customers are changing, with more vulnerable people using libraries to access online services. We stopped charging for using public access computers in October 2013 and this has helped many people affected by welfare reform changes and looking for work.

Library use by children and young people continues to grow; loans to children make up 30% of the total amount of books loaned. Almost 10,000 children took part in the 2013 summer reading challenge; the highest number ever achieved. At the same time 103 young people volunteered during the summer holidays to encourage younger children to take part in the challenge. In 2014 we are aiming to encourage over 200 young people to volunteer.

Devon Libraries has been selected as one of 10 places across England piloting the Enterprising Libraries approach, which aims to explore how libraries can support the economy.

Arts Council England has national responsibility for policy development for public libraries. In 2013 it published Envisioning the Library of the Future, which set out four priority areas for development.

  • Place the library as the hub of the community.
  • Make the most of digital technology and creative media.
  • Ensure that libraries are resilient and sustainable.
  • Deliver the right skills for those who work in libraries.

Alan Davey, the CEO of the Arts Council said:
‘The future public library will be both a physical and a virtual place – somewhere people visit, and also somewhere to be part of wherever they are. The library will not stand alone but will be collaborating with other organisations to give people access to a wide range of services that meet their needs.’

The Society of Chief Librarians has developed a set of four Universal Offers, which should be available in libraries across the country.

  • Reading offer – providing a vibrant, dynamic reading experience for people of all ages, including reading groups, a great range of books and a range of ways to stimulate reading in all formats, including online.
  • Health offer – maximising libraries’ potential as local hubs offering non-clinical community space, self-help resources, assisted online access to good-quality health resources and signposting, public health promotion activities, social and recreational reading opportunities and volunteering.
  • Information offer – supporting people to engage online with government and other sources of information; ensuring that library staff and volunteers are continually developing their skills to provide help accessing information and services.
  • Digital offer – providing free access to the internet for every customer (for a minimum period of time), clear and accessible online information about library services and staff trained to help customers to access digital information.