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Kent County Council proposes changes to mobile library

A mobile book lending library could be on borrowed time as some services across the borough look set to be shelved.

Members of Kent County Council’s Growth and Economic Development Committee met earlier this month, on the back of significant financial pressure the authority faces.

The county’s 11 mobile libraries make 651 stops throughout the year, costing taxpayers more than £367,000 per annum.

The mobile library's services could be reduced. Stock pic.
The mobile library's services could be reduced. Stock pic.

KCC has analysed the performance of the service, saying that some stops had ‘very low’ levels of use.

Findings showed that 368 stops had an average of just two visitors or less and that 50% of customers were using a library building in addition to the mobile service.

It is suggested a new operating schedule from Tuesdays to Saturdays runs on alternate weeks only - some are currently weekly while a few are monthly.

Some route reductions are also being considered and Monday’s service is due to be replaced with a Saturday service to avoid clashing with Bank Holidays.

A mobile library. Picture: KCC
A mobile library. Picture: KCC

The changes could save £150,000 a year.

Mike Hill, KCC cabinet member for community services, said: “The county council fully appreciates the value of its library service and is committed to providing the best service we can.

“We have to accept the financial reality that savings have to be made and review all KCC services to ensure that we focus our services where people are using them and adapt accordingly.

"It is only right that we keep our services under review and make best use of our resources.

A separate, but related, plan for a trust to take over the running of libraries is also underway.

Original plans to outsource the service to another organisation were put on hold when it emerged registration services had to be kept in house.

Cllr Mike Hill, cabinet member for libraries
Cllr Mike Hill, cabinet member for libraries

Cllr Hill said the overhaul would not mean libraries closing.

He said: “I want to make economies not by closing libraries but by making better use of them.

"People love their libraries and I am quite convinced the library network needs to be protected.

"It has been a rocky time for staff who have had a lot to put up with. We now have a firm way forward.”

KCC is launching a six-week consultation on the changes to the mobile service starting on January 22, running until March 4. Details are available online here.

To find out where the library stops near you, click here.

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