Nottingham City Council is proposing to close three public libraries as part of plans to save £ 233,000.
The authority proposes to close the Basford Library on Vernon Road, the Radford Lenton Library on Lenton Boulevard and the Aspley Library on Nuthall Road.
The Aspley Library will close its doors to the public and become what is described as a ‘distribution point’ providing services such as the home library and mobile / outreach services.
The plans were drawn at a time when the city’s main central library remains closed as its multi-million pound replacement, part of the new Broad Marsh parking and bus station complex, remains unfinished.
When complete, it will replace the old Angel Row Library, which closed in 2020. It has been described as the most used library in town – but its books remain in storage pending the opening of the new site.
An exact opening date has not been confirmed as the council still needs around £ 10million to fit out.
Now a public consultation will be launched to find out what people think of the specific proposals for the three libraries involved.
The board indicates that the three libraries examined are underutilized, with 22,680 annual visits to the Basford library, 7,920 visits to the Radford / Lenton library and 38,820 to Aspley. These libraries were also considered the least profitable in the city.
A report prepared for a board meeting on Tuesday, January 18 states, “The way people use libraries is changing. The national image has seen a drop in book issuance.
“With shrinking budgets and changes in user habits, library services must rethink services and find innovative ways to reduce costs while maintaining quality service that meets the needs of citizens.
“Nottingham Libraries continue to play an important role in communities by providing access to learning and resources, providing safe and welcoming spaces and providing essential access to free public computers and Wi-Fi to enable people to engage in the digital world.
“There has been a national decline in library use over the past 10 years which has been reflected in Nottingham, which has been further accelerated by the pandemic.”
The board commissioned external library service specialists to report and launched an online public inquiry with 1,713 responses received.
He found that the overall cost of delivering Nottingham is higher than that of most other library authorities, with some libraries having very low utilization, making the cost of their operation high.
The council says: “Nottingham has a narrow urban boundary, with some areas being relatively close to the city center.
“This, together with the ease of access through good transport links, has strengthened the role of a central library, as a high proportion of library users use this facility alongside their more localized offering.
“The central library (before it closed) accounted for just under a third of the departments’ total physical book editions.
“So the challenge is to transform what is traditionally seen as a building-based service into a more agile service using balanced technology with physical access where it is needed most.
“Many libraries have overlapping basins and demand in some areas has declined. While some of the smaller libraries are highly regarded, they are not used well and the service’s asset base requires a major investment.
Cllr Kevin Clarke, leader of the Independent Opposition Group at Nottingham City Council, said the proposals were “disgusting”.
He said: “We don’t have a central library. How short-sighted can you be to shut down Angel Row’s main library before they sell it? They should have waited for the opening of the new central library before seeking to close these libraries.
“They tear communities apart and they will end up paying for it – these are community hangouts. “
The council is responsible for 15 public libraries across the city, made up of a network of 11 community libraries, three libraries in common service centers and the central library.
In 2019/20, people made over 880,711 physical visits to libraries and borrowed over 602,800 books, audiobooks and multimedia items.
People also accessed public computers with internet and free Wi-Fi, with over 203,700 computer hours and 462,900 hours of Wi-Fi.
Libraries have also been used to access homework clubs, job clubs, business advice, and reading challenges. Many people have also accessed online library services such as e-book borrowing.
Information from the Council Building Condition Surveys indicates that around £ 320,000 needs to be spent to upgrade the library buildings to a safe and modern standard.
A public consultation is planned over a 12-week period from January to May 2022. The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the Board of Directors on Tuesday January 18th.