Residents and community groups are encouraged to take part in a public consultation to help shape ambitious plans for the council’s Library Service over the next five-years.
The consultation comes as St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the draft St Helens Borough Library Draft Strategy and Delivery Plan for 2023-2028 which proposes a number of changes to the current model in a bid to deliver an innovative, modern and accessible library service.
Due to the changing landscape of how libraries are used, with loaning of physical items declining over the years and a growth in digital offers, the council is seeking to cater for this demand while continuing to provide support to communities most in need.
At a time when the council’s funding from Central Government is significantly reduced, down from £127m in 2010 to just £11m this year,this geographically spread model will targeted resources where it is required most, with a proposal to change the current 13 library system to a network of seven – investing in the buildings that would remain open, with Haydock set to become the borough’s first SEND specialist library next year and St Helens Library to move back into The Gamble Building once internal renovations are completed.
Meanwhile, outreach work, such as the home delivery and schools library services, as well as encouraging a community-managed approach, will be the focus in areas that would no longer have a council-run provision in the immediate vicinity – with public transport links taken into account to ensure library users can access the network of seven operational libraries.
Under the proposals, St Helens Library – which opened in the World of Glass Museum in 2020 – would remain open, along with Newton-le-Willows, Chester Lane, Haydock, Eccleston, Moss Bank and Thatto Heath.
Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr are earmarked for closure, with Peter Street Library having closed at the end of March due to the building space being leased to another organisation – while Billinge Library has been closed since March 2020 as a result of structural issues.
Recognising the heritage and cultural significance of the Rainhill Trails exhibition in Rainhill Library, the council will work with the exhibition owners to ensure it remains in the village, should a community-managed model not materialise at Rainhill Library.
Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Communities and Culture, said:
“The Draft Library Strategy and Delivery Plan 2023-2028 outlines the contribution the Library Service can make to reducing inequalities within the borough and to deliver outcomes identified in our Borough Strategy.
“Not all the decisions we have to make will be easy but by working with residents, parish councils, community groups, businesses and others, we aim to make sure we have an innovative, modern, sustainable and accessible Library Service providing support where it is needed, with opportunity and access for all.
“This new strategy is about working with communities on how we shape library services to be a part of their future. That is why it is so vital that we hear from you about what you want to see from our service and we’d love to hear from community groups and partners interested in how library services could be delivered in their area.”
To find out more about the strategy visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/library-strategy.
Paper copies are also available in libraries and leisure centres, with a series of street engagement exercises planned, details of which will be shared at the earliest opportunity.