The plan to deliver a modern St Helens Library Service that is inclusive, vibrant, modern, excellent, responsive to customer needs and at the heart of communities has been approved.
St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the new Library Strategy at a meeting yesterday, Wednesday, which will see the Gamble once again the home of St Helens Library, bringing it back together with the award-winning St Helens Archive Service.
The strategy sets out a new framework for delivering library services which will support those most in need and is based on the council’s localities model to focus on the areas with greater inequalities. This will be done through creating better quality library services with a focus on outreach work to target those who need support but wouldn’t traditionally engage with the service.
This will sit alongside the successful home delivery service and digital offer which allows people to have access to thousands of books and magazines at any time of the day from their home.
The locality model will see library service operate from buildings in each of the borough’s seven localities. These are Chester Lane, Eccleston, Haydock, Moss Bank, Newton le Willows, St Helens town centre and Thatto Heath.
Where there is more than one library building in a locality the library in the area of greatest need, which has been determined by a range of factors including population and deprivation will continue to operate.
The strategy proposes the service operating out of fewer buildings whilst strengthening the outreach offer which includes home delivery and digital library. The following libraries – Billinge, Garswood, Parr, Peter Street, Rainford and Rainhill – will cease being operated by council staff on 31st October 2022.
Talks have been taking place with a range of parish councils and community groups in the affected areas around the council handing over the running of the library buildings in some cases through a community asset transfer or moving some services into other community venues.
These will continue but the council is keen to hear from anyone interested in finding out more about taking over library buildings to offer a range of community services from them.
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said: “We know that many people cherish their library service, and we want more people to connect with the difference this service can and does make to other’s lives. Our library membership continues to fall and staying the same will only see the service stagnate further. It’s not an easy decision to make but transformation by reducing the number of libraries and making a better offer, particularly through outreach work to target those with the most to gain who don’t otherwise use the service, will mean that more people will benefit from our library services in the long run.
“We have been in discussions for some time and are actively seeking to continue to find alternative provisions for those areas affected. We have support available to community groups interested with everything from grant funding support and more so please if you are interested in having services in your community do get in touch.”
Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action will be hosting a free seminar talking through how to set up a community business. To find out more or book visit: https://www.haltonsthelensvca.org.uk/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=394
You can also learn more about support for community groups online here: https://locality.org.uk/services-tools/support-for-community-organisations/
You can see the full Library Strategy and more details at www.sthelens.gov.uk/librarystrategy
Anyone interested in community asset transfers of library buildings or if you know of a setting that could host services in communities can also email firstname.lastname@example.org