Cabinet has agreed the Council’s Library Service Strategy (2019-2021), having reviewed the good progress made to ensure the service remains relevant, when expectations of a modern library are changing.
At their meeting on March 19, Members reviewed the current Strategy and its associated Action Plan. Published for the 2015-2018 period, it identified key priorities such as embedding libraries at the heart of communities, and managing the service in a period of change brought by new technologies.
A report to Thursday’s meeting outlined the progress made against these priorities – including community profiles developed for each library and raising the number of volunteer hours by more than 2,000 from 2015/16 to 2017/18. ‘Keep in Touch’ sessions and consultation with members of the public were also held in a number of locations across Rhondda Cynon Taf, while more than 1,000 children took part in the 2018/19 Summer Reading Challenge.
In schools, a regular programme of story-telling sessions is delivered, with 89 events from April 2018 to January 2019 engaging with 3,000 people.
Meanwhile, 686 library cards have been issued to children across Rhondda Cynon Taf. The Council also works with external organisations to host events in its libraries, including adult learning and ‘Digital Fridays’. A full list of what has been achieved is available as an Appendix to the report.
The Council has also made significant capital investments in a number of its libraries. In December 2017, Rhydyfelin Library opened with new equipment and community meeting spaces – and in February 2019, Tonypandy Library received new facilities and spaces after £120,000 funding was secured from the Welsh Government. It followed a £60,000 scheme, via #RCTinvest, to improve the building exterior in 2017/18.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys have been carried out, and they indicate that users are pleased with all aspects of the service – with between 96% and 99% of respondents stating they felt the service was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
The Strategy and Action Plan for the next three years, which has now been approved by Cabinet, includes three key priorities – keeping the service relevant, embedding new models of service delivery and improving the library experience for customers. In order to achieve these, the service will:
- Enhance the programme of digitisation of resources, and make these available online for customers.
- Harness new IT developments to improve the customer experience at static, mobile and through the Home Library Service.
- Ensure all staff have the skills to provide services that remain relevant, at a time when new technologies are changing patterns of usage and customer expectations.
- Invest in infrastructure improvements including co-location with other services in community hubs.
The Full Strategy and Action plan is available as an Appendix to the report to Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Following Cabinet’s approval, it will be published onto the Council’s website during March 2019.
Councillor Rhys Lewis, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Well-being and Cultural Services, said: “The Welsh Government’s Welsh Public Library Standards requires Local Authorities to produce a Strategy and Action Plan to outline and shape the development of its public library service. Following review of the period 2015-2018, Cabinet Members have agreed the Strategy for the next three years.
“The review process highlighted many aspects of the excellent work the service in Rhondda Cynon Taf has undertaken recently – to ensure the Library Service remains relevant at a time when service user expectations are being ever changed and shaped by developing technologies.
“The new Community Hub programme that the Council is pursuing is facilitating opportunities to engage in learning and improve literacy, providing places for local groups and partner organisations to meet, continuing strong links with our schools, and providing the latest IT equipment for service users.
“Over the last few years, we’ve also been able to provide important capital investment in libraries at Rhydyfelin and Tonypandy – ensuring they are well equipped for the expectations of modern libraries, utilising external investment and local partnerships where possible.”