Opening hours at Uckfield public library could be cut by a quarter from next autumn.
The changes, if approved after consultation, would target the hours least used by borrowers.
East Sussex County Council Cabinet on Tuesday (December 15) agreed to consult on the proposed hours change and to hold an internal review of the county’s library and information service.
The current and proposed hours for Uckfield library are:
- Mondays: 9.30-1pm cut to 10-1pm
- Tuesdays: 9.30-5.30pm – cut to 10-4.30pm
- Wednesdays: 9.30-7pm – cut to 2-4.30pm
- Thursdays: 9.30-5.30pm – changed to 10-6pm
- Fridays: 10-7pm – cut to 10-4.30pm
- Saturdays: 9.30-4pm cut to 10-4.30pm
The library at present is open 44.5 hours a week with the proposals seeing this come down to 33 hours, a 26 per cent reduction.
Papers before the county council’s Cabinet showed level of usage by time of day, with low visitor numbers after 4pm, including by children.
Rationale for the change
“Over the next three years East Sussex County Council needs to save between £70 and £90 million, a report said.
“The proposal is one of a number of potential measures we have identified that could save £2million from the running costs of our libraries and contribute towards the county council’s overall savings plan.
“Our libraries are not well used at all times of the day.
“We are proposing to reduce the overall amount of time that all of our library buildings are open to the public.
Access when libraries are most used
“The opening hours proposals focus on reducing library opening hours at quieter times, whilst ensuring that people have access to services across the county when they are most used.
“It is proposed that libraries will only be open between the hours of 10am and 5pm, except for those libraries that are currently open later than 5.30pm.
“However, it is important to highlight that whilst the focus of the proposal is to save money by reducing library opening hours at times when libraries are least well used, we cannot make all the savings we need to make by only reducing opening hours before 10am and after 5pm.
Retain a comprehensive service
“By making some further changes to opening hours, it would be possible to retain a comprehensive service across the county. All libraries would continue to be open during the day at varying times throughout the week.
“For those libraries open later than 5.30pm it is proposed that these libraries would retain one evening opening until 6pm on a Thursday evening.
“Thursday is the busiest evening for our libraries in terms of visitors, transactions such as loans and renewals of items, and use of library computers.
“Thursday is also the day when most libraries are open later, and it tends to coincide with late night opening for shopping [this refers to the county as a whole].
Savings will amount to £500,000
“We also think that having the same day each week makes it easier to remember when it is evening opening for libraries.
“Overall the proposal would result in an average reduction to opening hours of our 24 libraries by around 25% across East Sussex and would save us around £500,000 per year.”
The county council said the e-library service was available 24 hours a day.
“We have considered what alternatives there are to reducing library opening hours, but have concluded that we cannot not make sufficient savings from the other areas of our overall £2m savings plan.
“We also considered whether it would be better to propose closing some of our libraries and keeping the others open for longer. We are developing a long-term, strategic view of what needs our library service should meet over the next five to ten years, called a Strategic Commissioning Strategy.
“This is a detailed piece of work that needs to be comprehensive, evidence-based, and not pre-judged. For that reason it will take us around 18 months to complete.
No plans to close libraries in short term
“Only once this review is complete will we know what the future service could look like and how services should be delivered to best meet need.
“There are no plans to close libraries during the development of our long term strategy for the service.
“We believe that the proposals are proportionate and fair, both in the contribution that they will make to the overall savings the county council needs to make, and in the way that we propose to reduce opening hours at each library across the county.
“We think the proposals will enable us to continue to provide an efficient library service and make it more efficient in future.”