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Library Strategy FAQs

Why has the council produced a Library Strategy?

Libraries play a key role in communities; they change lives for the better. They not only provide access to books and information, but they support people's wellbeing and improve life opportunities. Libraries bring people together, providing practical support and guidance in the heart of the community. The library service has a critical role in helping people to realise their potential, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.   

 As with trends nationally, the use of libraries has changed and with loans of physical items having declined over recent years, coupled with the growth in the digital offer there is now an urgent imperative to review the council's library service and this is why the strategy has been produced  

Does the council have to provide a library?   

Under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, local councils in England have a statutory duty to provide a 'comprehensive and efficient' library service for all people working, living or studying full-time in the area who want to make use of it. In providing this service, councils must encourage both adults and children to make full use of the library service and lend books and other printed material free of charge.  

Has the council consulted with the public?  

The council has a statutory duty to consult on changes to its library service. An extensive 12-week consultation period has taken place from 1st May to 31st July 2023. The consultation consisted of: 

  • an open survey which anyone could complete

  • an on-street representative consultation where both users and non-users of libraries were asked to contribute

  • drop-in consultation sessions at each library giving residents an opportunity to meet council officers

  • specific consultation with groups who use libraries to meet

    The cost of conducting this consultation is £19,756. The results of the consultation are currently being analysed.   

Has an Equality Impact Assessment been conducted? 

Individual Equality Impact Assessments (EIA) have been completed for all libraries whether they are proposed to close or stay open, as well as EIAs for the Home Delivery Library Service and the Digital Library Service. The EIAs have been updated post-consultation.  

How have you decided on which library services will continue to be council run and which will be offered for alternative community managed model? 

The council works on a Localities footprint which brings similar areas together. In total there are seven localities and the Library Strategy proposes there will be a council run library in each locality. The localities are defined using the following essential criteria:

  • Areas must be coterminous with the existing St Helens Cares model

  • Population size for each locality should be similar, recognising variations are acceptable where it may impact identity  

  • Area of similar need should be grouped together

  • Transport routes should be considered to facilitate accessibility to services.  

How have you decided which libraries will no longer be council run? 

Where there is currently more than one library within a locality, the area of greatest need has been selected.  

What is a community managed library?  

Community managed libraries (CMLs) are:  community led and largely community delivered libraries, rarely with paid staff (but with some professional support) and some form of ongoing council support. They are part of the library network but these libraries may or may not be included as part of the statutory provision.  Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-libraries-good-practice-toolkit/community-libraries-good-practice-toolkit   

I am interested in keeping my local library open how can I find out more?   

If you are interested in working with the council in setting up a community managed library, the following website should provide further details:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-libraries-good-practice-toolkit/community-libraries-good-practice-toolkit   

Which libraries are affected? 

The council will continue to operate seven libraries across St Helens Borough.

St Helens Library - based in the World of Glass Museum - will remain open, along with Newton-le-Willows, Chester Lane, Haydock, Eccleston, Moss Bank and Thatto Heath.

Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr will no longer be council maintained and will close on Friday 26 January, although positive talks continue with groups interested in a community-managed approach in a number of areas. There is a formal community asset transfer process to go through before any buildings can re-open as community managed spaces as per the Community Asset Transfer Policy approved by cabinet on 13 September 2023.  

Peter Street and Billinge libraries have already been closed for some time due to expiry of building lease and structural issues, respectively.  

What will happen to the building? Will the council protect it from vandalism?  

The council is working hard to identify any groups or community organisations keen to explore running a community managed library and or community activity from any of the library buildings it will no longer operate.  

 In the event no group comes forward, we will surrender the lease of the buildings we do not own and consider the options for repurposing the buildings we own.   

 We will continue to monitor the buildings and protect them from any damage.  

If my local library closes, how can I borrow books?  

The council will continue to operate seven libraries. As a member of St Helens library service you can use any library within the network and books can be returned at and borrowed from any of the seven. You may be eligible for the Home Delivery Library Service if you are unable to travel to another library due to disability, age and/or ill health.  You may also wish to access the council's extensive online e-book offer.

What will happen to the library staff working in the libraries due to close?  

 St Helens library service is fortunate to have a highly dedicated and skilled workforce and the council is keen to retain and develop this. The current workforce will be reshaped with staff redeployed to other libraries.

What will happen to the books and equipment in the libraries that are due to close?  

The library service regularly circulates stock around the libraries it operates. When a library closes its stock will be absorbed into the stock at other libraries. All furniture and equipment will either be relocated or recycled .

I currently use one of the libraries which is due to close. What do I do with the books that I have borrowed?

When you join St Helens library service, you can use any library across the borough to borrow and return items. If your local library is scheduled to close and you are unable to return your books before it closes you can return them to any other council operated library.   

The group I attend meets in a library which is proposed to close. What will happen?   

Library staff will be contacting any organisation who uses the building to discuss the implications of the strategy. Groups will be supported to move to other community venues or another library building.  

Can I become a member of your Home Delivery Library Service?  

The Home Delivery Library Service provides books direct to people's homes if they cannot get to a library due to disability, age and/or medical condition.

What do you mean by an outreach library service?

The Outreach Library offer will see staff across the council aligned to the localities working model, with library staff within buildings and with partners in community settings to bring the library service closer to residents. This includes establishing partnerships with community organisations, children's centres/family hubs, sports clubs, housing providers, sheltered accommodation, care home providers, schools and local businesses. 

It is easier for me to travel to a library outside St Helens borough, can I join another service?   

Most library services are open to everyone but please check arrangements at the library you feel is easiest for you to access.  Any items borrowed from a library within St Helens borough can only be returned to a St Helens Borough Council library.