Local libraries really matter to Selly Oak constituents

Steve McCabe MP has received an enthusiastic response to his consultation on the future of local library services which results from the enormous pressures now facing the council budget.

The results of his survey showed that local libraries are important to individuals and communities and offer a range of valued services. The majority of those surveyed use libraries to borrow books, this was followed by studying and computer/internet use. The survey showed that libraries are also used for social events and clubs including: knitting groups; homework clubs; business clubs; and many activities which support older people in the community.

77% reported that they very much valued their local library and 68% felt that libraries are important and should be left as they are. 37% of people reported that they used library services once a month, with 15% using it once a week. What was clear was that people want to be part of any decisions made about the future of our libraries. It is also worth noting that the latest Birmingham Council Quarterly Services return for Selly Oak shows that library membership has recently doubled.

Constituents did feel that changes could be made to the services offered by libraries, and a number of suggestions were put forward including combining libraries with cafes to make them into community hubs and introducing more computers and book based technology such as kindles. Taking into account the current financial climate, constituents also said they would consider reduced opening hours rather than closure and the introduction of volunteers (providing they didn’t substitute for peoples’ jobs). There was also support for income generation through renting out rooms for clubs and events and children’s book parties. People also thought the fine structure needed reviewing and that there could be a place for some element of charging.

As well as an email questionnaire, Steve has also met with the Friends of Yardley Wood Library Group to explore how it will be possible to protect community library services in these difficult times.

Steve McCabe MP said:

“I have been inundated with creative suggestions from people across the constituency who recognise the financial problems that face libraries but do not want the council to simply close libraries or let senior council officers recommend cutting budgets and  slashing valued services without them having a proper say.

“It’s clear from these findings that libraries matter a great deal to my constituents which is why I will be making every effort to represent their views and commit to doing my utmost to protect local libraries. I have already shared the results with local councillors and will be using the findings as evidence of clear support for community libraries.”

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