Plans to save Devon library service given the go ahead

Barnstaple Library could become one of the first 'Devon Centres'.

Barnstaple Library could become one of the first 'Devon Centres'. - Credit: Archant

Councillors at Exeter’s County Hall agree measures which could lead to libraries being run by a trust and the community, but preserve the service.

Plans to keep all of Devon’s libraries open have been approved today (Wednesday) by the county council.

Councillors endorsed a series of measures at the County Hall cabinet meeting which could lead to a new way of working, with staff retained but communities getting involved to help run their local library.

The council wants to set up pilot projects with 10 communities to help shape the new organisation, while it is also going to investigate transferring the library service to a trust or ‘mutual’ charitable organisation that would run it on behalf of the council.

All this would help make the £1.5 million savings needed by the library service by 2016/17, following Government council budget cuts.

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It follows a 13 week public consultation which saw North Devon communities such as Braunton and Appledore rally to the cause of their local library, as under the original proposals those smaller communities faced an uncertain future.

Plans were also announced to leave the mobile service as it is for now and to bring all 50 libraries up to the same standard, free wifi, and extending access to allow users in some areas to them outside usual opening hours.

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Barnstaple Library is proposed as the next ‘Devon Centre’ community hub with several services under one roof, but the county would be seeking to inject investment to improve the building.

Proposals to move DCC staff into the library when the Civic Centre closes still appear to be on the table – today’s cabinet meeting heard how layouts had been considered and officers were working on plans which could incorporate services and staff, while ‘safeguarding sufficient space to deliver a modern library’.

Discussions are continuing regarding the future of the North Devon Records Office.

Councillor Roger Croad, the cabinet member responsible for the service, said after the meeting: “We realise people will have questions about how plans will develop, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity today to answer some of them.”

Community groups

Earlier he had commented how much library users valued their libraries and were prepared to support it library to improve the service.

“Community groups already provide support to some of our libraries, helping them to raise funds for improvements or to help out at events,” he added.

“We would like each of our libraries to have the support of local groups in this way, and for them to have more of an influence about how their library is run.”

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