Peterborough Library Hours Cut

07:20 Wednesday 1st June 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

SUZI ROBERTS: New opening hours, as we’ve been hearing in the news, have come into effect at Peterborough’s libraries, or they will come into effect later on. Every library in the city will see their hours cut, except Central Library. Well Vivacity hopes the changes will save them £171,000 a year. So Heather Walton is Head of Libraries at Vivacity, and she joins me now. Heather, let me just get this right. Central Library hours aren’t affected, but the big libraries at Orton, Bretton and Werrington are being reduced in terms of their hours. How will their times be reduced from today?
HEATHER WALTON: Their hours will be reduced from forty four and a half hours opening per week down to thirty seven opening hours per week. The Central Library hours remain the same, because they get over half a million visits every year, and make up nearly half of all the visits to all the libraries across the city.
SUZI ROBERTS: Now I’m slightly .. I must admit when I read this I felt slightly confused, because I thought, earlier in the year, that a number of people had raised objections about various libraries, the possibility of their hours being cut, and that it had been announced that they wouldn’t be cut. Am I getting confused?
HEATHER WALTON: Yes. There has been a change. Originally Peterborough City Council, who pay Vivacity to run the Library Service, came with a proposal .. came and asked us to reduce the hours. And the hours at Bretton, Orton and Werrington would have been cut down to twenty nine hours per week. When we started to consult with the public about how these hours might be spread, the opening hours might be spread across the week, some petitions were sent in to the Council, and the Council found £52,000 to put back into the Library Service, which means that the cuts aren’t as draconian as they were originally proposed in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy.
SUZI ROBERTS: So obviously libraries aren’t just being used for borrowing books aney more. They’ve got a whole host of different services, haven’t they? How are you going to try and make sure that people who work through the day for example, can still use their local library?
HEATHER WALTON: There are any number of ways. We have ensured that there are .. the libraries remain open a good number of hours on a Saturday. They are also all open al least one night until six, and in the case of Central, Bretton and Werrington and Orton, they’re open until seven o’clock in the evening one night a week. We also offer a lot of services on-line now. So you can renew your books 24 hours, over the telephone, via the internet. We offer a range of on-line reference material that you can access at home via the internet. And very soon we are going to be offering electronic books, which hopefully you’ll also be able to download from home. So although the actual hours from the libraries are unfortunately being cut, we are looking for ways to increase access for the people of Peterborough.
SUZI ROBERTS: Mmm. Electronic books. That sounds like a great idea. It’s obviously the way things are going. You have to keep up with the times as a library, don’t you?
HEATHER WALTON: That’s right. We’re very keen to start offering this. We’ll start off with electronic books that you can download to your various different e-readers, and then later in the year we’ll also be offering downloadable audio books, all of which help to increase access to reading, which is still extremely very popular in Peterborough, with nearly 900,000 items being borrowed in the past year.
SUZI ROBERTS: So how .. thinking about the audio books that you could perhaps download, and the e-books, how would the rental work? How would it work?
HEATHER WALTON: You download it onto your player, and there’s a piece of proprietary software that you will have that will expire it after your loan period.
SUZI ROBERTS: Oh I see. I have to say that having come back to using a library after several year’s break, I find it fantastic that you can go on-line and renew your books. Because I was always forgetting to bring them in. It’s brilliant. On the subject of some of the various different libraries, Dogsthorpe and Woodston now, they’re going to be closed an extra day a week, aren’t they?
HEATHER WALTON: Dogsthorpe was already .. had a couple of half-day closings. So yes, what we did was we did a great deal of research into when people used us. We did an hour-by-hour look at when people came in, what they did when they came in. And we put three different options, and a fourth option of “I don’t mind” to all the public, and the hours that we’re going with are the ones that have been chosen by the majority of people who come in, and those who answered our questionnaire when we went out into the local communities. So we’ve done our very best to try and meet the needs of all of our customers, by ensuring that we have afternoons for children wanting to come in and do their homework, having mornings for those who prefer to come in at that time. So we’ve made sure that there’s a good range of opening hours across all of our libraries.
SUZI ROBERTS: Do you think it’s going to be difficult moving forward Heather, just to keep libraries in the forefront of people’s minds, bearing in mind that you’ve got to make all these cutbacks? Perhaps, I don’t know, will that affect the way that you promote libraries, in terms of staffing?
HEATHER WALTON: I’m not sure that we would necessarily be looking to immediately change the way we staff our libraries, because people value the professional and good customer services that they get. But more and more we’re increasing the offer that we make in libraries, by the use of volunteers. So we have people who are volunteering and helping us with delivering taster sessions, for people wanting to learn to use computers. So what we’re doing is actually increasing the range of services that we can offer, and helping out people who really want to keep their skills up and volunteer. So I think that way we keep libraries relevant, because we’re talking to people, we’re getting volunteers to come in and work with us who are doing things that they think are extremely important in their local communities.
SUZI ROBERTS: Thanks very much. That’s Heather Walton, who is Head of Libraries at Vivacity.