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Library Strategy 2010 2013

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Visits to libraries are virtually identical to what they were 12 years ago for 2009/10 but included nine weeks of library closure for refurbishment and RFID installation. In 2007/08 the last full year of usage (the Central Library was closed for 3.5 months in 2008/09 for major refurbishment), there were 1,003,147 visits and they are increasing again this year. Book issues are down as a whole by 41%, but IT use was almost non-existent 12 years ago. It now accounts for c 30% of library business. The branch network remains as it was, though there has been an increase in opening hours of 49 hours per week which are now spread over seven days with Central, Leagrave and Wigmore being open Sunday–Saturday. Customers can also access information, renew and reserve books, check their accounts and download books 24/7 at

Whilst book borrowing may have declined, over 900,000 books were issued in 2009/10 and there is still a huge agenda for libraries in terms of basic skills and ICT training, with libraries signed up to help deliver the government initiative, Race Online 2012, led by Martha Lane Fox to get 10 million people using the internet, specifically to access government services. Libraries also play a vital part in delivering the shared public service delivery priorities agreed by central and local government, Luton Borough Council’s Corporate Plan and the Local Area Agreement.
Currently we know that c 50% of the population in Luton use the library service with 40, 432 people having used a library card in the last 12 months to either borrow an item or use ICT; 14,113 of these were children aged 15 and under. See Appendix C for further details.
However, with both national and local

Government facing a time of tremendous upheaval and huge service reductions and job losses predicted,

it is clear that libraries as other public services are

facing challenging times. Luton has already looked for innovative partnerships with local businesses, booksellers and introduced a café at the Central Library and we need to continue to look at and develop new initiatives and relationships to ensure we are delivering the best service possible to the people of Luton effectively and efficiently.

2. Consultation
Luton Libraries have used four pieces of consultation specifically for this strategy but also have used information given by users in the Cipfa Plus Survey in October 2009. See Appendix A for consultation results. What was very apparent from all the consultation was that the public do not understand the services offered by today’s public library, even those who regularly use it. As a result part of the strategy will be to agree a new marketing strategy for the service. The draft strategy will also be published on the Luton Culture website and highlighted in the Council’s Lutonline newspaper to ask for wider comments.
3. Statutory Framework
Public libraries are a statutory service under the terms of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, amended by regulations introduced in January 1992. The regulations confirm the concept of a free basic service, but allow charges to be made for services beyond the basic provision. The 1964 Act places the following duties upon Library Authorities: -

  • To provide ‘a comprehensive and efficient’ library service for all persons desiring to make use thereof.

  • To employ officers to provide and maintain buildings and equipment, and to provide books and other materials.

  • To make provision available to all who live, work or who are in full-time education within the local authority area.

  • To secure and keep adequate stock and arrange for reservations and inter-lending.

  • To encourage both adults and children to make full use of the library service.

  • To make no charge for the loan of printed material, nor for general enquiries.

Library standards were introduced in 2001 but ceased in 2007/08. Luton Culture has retained and adapted some as a benchmark of basic library provision but will revisit these as part of the library strategy

The Secretary of State does have the power to intervene if he/she feels an authority is not providing a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ service and can institute an enquiry, issue a Direction and ultimately order the transfer of library functions of the authority to him/herself. These powers were invoked in 2009 when Wirral MBC decided to close 11 of its 24 libraries and

the Secretary of State instigated a local public

enquiry. The closures were stopped as a result, with

Wirral MDC directed to produce a clear strategic development plan

for the service which was then submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.
4. The Luton Library Offer
Aims and objectives

The key aim of the library service is to provide a gateway to books, information, lifelong learning and opportunity to everyone in the community by providing

  1. Access to books and information.

  2. Support for literacy, learning and encouraging an enjoyment of reading.

  3. Opportunities for the community through advice, support and space.

  4. A well publicised library offer to increase awareness and usage.

  5. A well trained friendly and helpful staff to provide an excellent customer service.

Libraries provide free safe community spaces where people can go to study, read, use ICT, take courses and find things out. They are places of opportunity, opening doors for personal growth, raising aspirations, improving the quality of people’s lives and empowering people. Membership is free as are all basic services – borrowing books, seeking information and using ICT.
Our core offer is
i Books and Reading

  • Fiction books in hardback and paperback from classics to the latest best sellers, ‘easy reads’ to challenging contemporary authors.

  • Large Print and audio books, books in community languages, e-books and digital audio books.

  • Books for children from birth to teenage years.

  • Support for children’s reading and learning including Bookstart, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Baby rhyme time and the Summer Reading Challenge.

  • Reading groups for adults and children.

  • Reader development activities for both adults and children, themed stock displays and promotional events.

  • Library catalogue and stock circulation system for all titles, shared with Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough to enable a wide range of titles to be accessed by customers in all libraries.

  • Access to inter library loans.

Key priorities

Library membership for children is a key priority for Luton Libraries with the aim of every child in Luton to have a library card which they use regularly. Bookstart and ‘Dolly Parton’ information is given out by registrars when baby’s births are registered. Library membership registration is also taking place via schools.
Stock levels have declined by 29% over 12 years but Luton Libraries feel it is important to maintain existing levels. (Some of this reduction has included books being replaced by electronic and other media.) A minimum of 35,000 items should be added to stock each year, plus e-books.
ii Information and multi media services

  • Access to a wide range of information in hard copy and electronic format.

  • Access to skilled information staff to help with any information.

  • Newspapers and Magazines in all libraries, some in community languages.

  • CD and DVD collections in the largest libraries.

  • Free information leaflets and displays/exhibitions space for other organisations at local, regional and national levels.

  • Virtual library with access to a wide range of data bases and websites that have been checked by library staff to ensure factual and up to date.

Key priority

To promote the use of online resources.
iii Lifelong Learning and ICT provision

  • Non fiction books covering a broad range of subjects for lifelong and informal learning, work and leisure.

  • Health Information Points in all libraries.

  • Books on Prescription running through 3 surgeries in Luton.

  • Subscriptions to a range of online data bases for library members.

  • Free internet access – email – online shopping – online booking – Patient Choice – services such as car tax renewal, word and excel.

  • Virtual library as above.

  • IT Taster sessions run by library staff and volunteers to get people online.

  • Vocational and educational courses provided by partners such as Adult and Community Learning in libraries.

  • Support to get back into employment from library staff and partners such as Next Step.

  • Free access to language CDs and DVDs and online courses.

  • Dual language books for children.

  • Access to the driving theory test and Citizenship practice tests.

  • For children, Stories from the Web encourages children to read and gives them the opportunity to have their written work published on the website.

  • Homework clubs in all libraries offer support for school and project work.

  • Family and local history events.

  • Community information database available through the virtual library.

Key priorities

Libraries currently have 139 PCs for public use. Levels should not drop beyond 130.

To promote ICT use to enable people without internet access at home to be able to use IT with staff support/training, particularly to access council and government services and to support the Race 0nline 2012 and Smarter government agendas.

Mrs B is a partially sighted lady over 80 who had never used a computer but wanted to keep up with new technology. She started by completing a course in Mouse Skills and then progressed through using the Keyboard to safe surfing of the Internet. (She has a particular desire to be able to shop online and be independent) Her first session on searching the Internet involved web sites connected with her interests i.e. gardening -, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and also some photographs of frescoes and mosaics at Pompeii. She was delighted that she can now look up information with great ease. She will be returning for further practice and will start to explore shopping online in a new course very shortly.

iv Outreach

  • Home library service for customers unable to access a local library due to illness and infirmity.

  • Mobile Library service ensuring virtually everyone in Luton is within a mile of a library service.

  • Visits by librarians to customers in schools, playgroups, nurseries, residential home and other community venues.

  • Display facilities in all libraries for individual and local organisations.

  • Community rooms for hire by local groups and organisations.

  • Libraries play a key role contributing to many other areas and agenda including, health and personal well-being, social inclusion, community cohesion, community safety and literacy.

  • With 50% of the population using libraries (Active Peoples Survey April- October 2008) libraries are also ideally placed to make a key contribution to a town wide customer service strategy, community hubs and children’s centres.

Key priority

To recruit more volunteers to the home library service to enable it to reach more customers.

v The Space

Luton is currently well served by a network of eight static libraries, some open every day Sunday - Saturday, a mobile library service visiting 15 sites across the town and a home library service. Around ninety-nine percent of the population live with a mile radius of a library service, with 91.6% being within a mile of a static library. If mobile library stops are included almost 100% of the population is within one mile of a library service.

The libraries are the Central Library in the town centre; the strategic libraries of Leagrave, Wigmore and Marsh Farm and the community libraries of Lewsey, Stopsley, Sundon Park and Bury Park. Between them the Central Library, Leagrave, Wigmore and Marsh Farm Libraries account for 86% of library visits, 89% of IT use and 75% of issues.

Two of the libraries are in community centres, and Marsh Farm Library moves into new premises in a new joint public/school library in Lea Manor School in early 2011. All the libraries are housed in council buildings except Wigmore Library, which is leased from a commercial organisation. The rent has gone up regularly at commercial rates and constitutes the biggest running cost for the library apart from staff. All the libraries have been refurbished internally in recent years, but many need substantial repairs to the fabric of the building. The Central Library although greatly improved by Big Lottery Funding is costly to run and not ideal to deliver a modern public library service. Both Bury Park and Sundon Park are inadequate; both are too small and Sundon Park has a first floor that cannot be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair. Bury Park receives regular customer complaints due to its size asking for more study space, more computers and more books, but it is physically impossible to fit more in. If it is to remain open, it must move to bigger and better premises.

Whilst ideally we would wish to improve the existing network and extend opening hours in line with customers’ wishes and retain the high percentage of customers living within a mile radius of a library this may not be possible or cost effective in the future. It is likely that the council may wish to reduce the network of libraries due to its budgetary position and if this is the case Luton Culture believe that libraries should only be closed for sound strategic reasons, e.g. their proximity to other libraries or because the premises are no longer adequate. Luton Culture also feel that it is better to close a library rather than reduce the quality of the library service overall by for example reducing opening hours, book fund etc across the board. This has the knock on effect of reducing usage, by offering reduced access, reduced choice and fewer services whilst buildings remain closed but still have to be maintained.

It is also likely that as online services develop and more and more people get access to ICT at home, over time the need for so many library buildings will also reduce, though we believe there will be a need for some library buildings for the foreseeable future to provide safe community space where people (particularly children, the elderly, students and those living in deprived areas or on low incomes) can go free of charge to study, read, learn and seek information.

In terms of the Luton library network, Bury Park Library is only half a mile from the newly refurbished Central Library and Sundon Park within a short distance of Marsh Farm Library which will have extended opening hours when it moves into its new premises at Lea Manor School. Indeed there is considerable overlap between some of the existing libraries with people living in the Leagrave and Limbury area of town being within a mile of three libraries. Stopsley Library was also due to close when Wigmore Library (built as the replacement Stopsley Library) opened in 1991 but was retained due to local pressure. All libraries are well served by public transport. A new library in Houghton Regis in Central Bedfordshire also opened in 2009 within a mile radius of Lewsey Library.

The mobile library currently coverage includes areas where there are gaps in static library provision - Farley Hill, Chaul End and Bushmead - and if libraries were to close, the mobile library routes would be changed to ensure additional stops filled in any gaps in coverage.

In the future it may be possible to look at co-locating libraries into new community buildings if they are in the right location and/or provide library access points if appropriate, in new and existing community buildings, again if they are in the correct location, i.e. easily accessible, near existing library sites or for new sites in positions where there are currently gaps in static library provision - Bushmead, Chaul End and Farley Hill. Library access points provide basic library provision -some books and ICT with self-service issue and return, run by volunteers but managed by the library service – not a cheap option to set up but a potential alternative delivery model that could be considered. Single staffing and self-service for the smaller libraries is also a potential option for the future.
If the library network is to be reduced, Luton Culture strongly recommend that the Central Library and the strategic libraries of Leagrave, Wigmore and Marsh Farm supported by the mobile library are seen as the very minimum library service provision or core service. To go beyond this, Luton Culture believes would mean Luton not having a ‘comprehensive and efficient service’ as laid down in the 1964 Act. Whilst a mobile library cannot replace the safe neutral community space a static library provides, it does provide access to books, information and ICT.

This minimum service would leave 64% of the population within a mile radius of a static library, but almost 97% within a mile radius of a library service with key strategic mobile library stops included in the library network. Ideally Luton Culture believes that the population within a mile radius of a library or mobile stop should not drop below 90%. Before any library closure was to take place, a full equalities impact assessment would need to be undertaken.

Between them Luton libraries have 365.75 opening hours a week spread over 7 days. Opening hours per branch with visitor figures are given below.


Opening hours

Visits 2009/10*

Percentage of visits


59.5 spread over 7 days




55.5 spread over 7 days



Marsh Farm





55.5 spread over 7 days











Sundon Park








Bury Park








* 2009/10 had 9 weeks of library closures for refurbishment and installation of RFID at Central, Leagrave and Wigmore Libraries will have impacted on usage
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