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A support program has been initiated by a charitable organization to aid libraries at risk due to budget reductions.

A support program has been initiated by a charitable organization to aid libraries at risk due to budget reductions.

A program has been initiated by the organization that oversees library services in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to aid services that are facing potential budget reductions in various parts of the country, such as Denbighshire, Nottingham, and Swindon.

Libraries Connected recently revealed that over 20 library programs, including approximately 650 public, prison, and mobile libraries, have become part of the organization’s initiative. This program provides a confidential peer support system, access to a resource library, customized training, and communication assistance. The goal is to aid local authorities in England and Wales, who are facing financial difficulties, in maintaining efficient, inclusive, and sustainable library services with fewer resources.

Last month, a survey conducted by the Local Government Association revealed that approximately 20% of council leaders and chief executives anticipate the need to release a section 114 notice, which signifies financial insolvency, within the next two years. Isobel Hunter, chief executive of Libraries Connected, expressed worry over the increasing number of councils issuing mandatory section 114 notices and the resulting impact on library services.

In late December, a program was initiated in response to numerous budget reduction suggestions impacting libraries. Denbighshire council passed a proposal to decrease library operating hours by 40%, with the goal of saving £360,000 annually. A survey seeking public input on the proposal received 4,500 responses, with over 90% of participants strongly opposing the plan.

In the same month, Swindon council announced that it had no intentions of shutting down any of its five main libraries, despite facing a budget cut of £660,000 for the service. Council leader Jim Robbins stated, “We will achieve the necessary savings by implementing new methods and managing the service in a different manner.”

The city council of Nottingham issued a section 114 notice in November and is now proposing a review of its library service. This may result in a reduction of £1.5 million and the elimination of 31 positions. The public has until January 16th to provide feedback on these proposed cuts.

Libraries Connected has announced that they will utilize information and real-life examples collected from the programme to create suggestions for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Arts Council England, and other organizations within the field.

Hunter stated that although no service can be completely shielded, it is important to protect libraries due to their significant economic and social benefits. Libraries have been proven to have a lasting effect on literacy, health, employment, digital inclusion, and various other outcomes.

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Library leaders can use the new support programme to demonstrate to senior officers, elected members, and government-appointed commissioners the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of using libraries to provide various council services in communities.

In December, a group of volunteers assumed responsibility for Raunds library in North Northamptonshire when it was at risk of shutting down. Also during that month, Derbyshire county council tentatively approved proposals to move Staveley library in Chesterfield and remain supportive of plans to relocate Clay Cross library in the same area as a cost-saving measure.

Hunter stated that the council funding crisis cannot be resolved unless local government receives a just and sustainable financial agreement. He also mentioned that in the meantime, they are prepared to collaborate with local authorities in order to provide the highest quality library service given their financial limitations.

Source: theguardian.com