I read with interest your proposed consultation on the Library offer. While I was at the University of Reading self-service was introduced at the Library and it greatly increased usage. Do you foresee this increasing usage at our libraries?
As the population of Wokingham Borough continues to grow all of the proposals contained in the Library Offer are aimed at increasing both the capacity and the usage of our Library Service. It is good to hear that you have experience of self-service increasing the availability of the library when people need it in the University and I look forward to you contributing to the consultation when it comes out.
We have seen in recent years the national picture in Wokingham libraries quite a contrast to the more general picture outside Wokingham. Our libraries are bucking the trend of usage because of some of the innovations that we have brought forward. We have had small increases in usage each year of about 0.5% and we have also had a 2% increase in registered active users that are actually using the service. That on the backdrop of national usage; which is actually declining at 2%.
So we are very passionate about our libraries and we would like to hear a lot of ideas from residents on how we might improve the service and we know that in order to continue to deliver a successful library service we need to continue to explore new ways of extending it, improving it, and making it more accessible to people.
So it is good to hear your comments and I hope you will put something into the consultation.
Yes I will be submitting a response to the consultation, of course. Throughout reading the consultation I have actually reached out to library districts in the United States and one of the areas in the documents that came with the Executive pack was around investing in technology and also income generation. One of the things they have done in the United States, the specific library district I spoke to, they have actually invested in a 3D printer and it has brought in such income to the library district that they are currently investigating getting more in by community backed projects in order to get more around libraries in the whole district. So would you support investing in technology to bring in income?
Yes we have invested in a lot of ancillary ways of generating income because as you know we are the lowest funded authority in the country so we don’t have money to throw around the place. For example in the libraries we have introduced cafes. In Woodley library we have recently introduced a small meeting room that local residents can rent for having business meetings. We have refurbished all the IT kit in the libraries; we have introduced wi-fi; and are continuing to look at other related technical innovation that means that we can actually increase the income of the libraries as well. So we will take that idea back and add it to the pile of other ideas. All ideas for generating income that are related to libraries, rather than tap dancing, are very welcome.