Blaenau Gwent Council Considers Increasing Library Opening Hours for Improved Access to Services
USING libraries as centres to access council services across Blaenau Gwent has been a “win win” for all involved councillors have been told.
But calls have been made to increase the opening hours at some hubs to allow greater access to council services.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Partnerships Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, November 16, councillors were presented with a report on the Wales Public Library Standards annual return for 2021/2022.
The Welsh public library standards are made up of 12 core entitlements, which monitor how well library services benefit the local community and the people of Wales.
All 12 of these entitlements have been met in Blaenau Gwent.
Blaenau Gwent’s young people and partnerships service manager Joanne Sims said that the report should have been published in March this year, but there had been a delay in sign off from the Welsh Government.
Since 2014 Aneurin Leisure Trust (ALT) has run six libraries on behalf of the council.
In June 2021, the council opened community hubs in the libraries to help provide council services.
Cllr Dai Davies said: “I think locating the hubs in the libraries has worked really well on both sides, Aneurin Leisure Trust and the council work really well together.”
Cllr Davies asked whether any data had been kept of people visiting the hubs for council services, then going on to the library and “borrowing books.”
ALT director of operations, Phill Sykes said: “It does play a part in increasing footfall into libraries for book loans.
“What pleases me most is that you can walk into any library now and you wouldn’t normally be able to tell who the library staff is and who is the community officer, they both work hand in hand.
“It’s helping residents get the service they need; it’s a win win all round.”
Cllr Peter Baldwin explained that some libraries have hubs operating in them for five days a week, while others such as Blaina and Cwm have hubs operational for one or two days a week.
Cllr Baldwin said: “Are we looking at extending those days?
“In Blaina if you miss it on Monday, unless you have transport you have to wait until the following Monday.”
Commercial and customer chief officer, Bernadette Elians said: “We do monitor the demand and footfall closely.
“What we’re looking to do is match what we can offer based on the demand.
“If it becomes very evident that demand is outstripping our capacity we would need to reconsider.”
She explained that there are budget constraints to consider when looking at any way of expanding the operation.
Councillors accepted the report which will go on to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on November 29.
The report said that the number of “active” book borrowers had increased by seven per cent.
Adult book issues have increased by 108 per cent.
Children’s book issues increased by 309 per cent.
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