Description of the service provided
Devon Libraries are currently a local authority run service with confirmed plans to run as a Public Service Mutual (PSM) known as Libraries Unlimited from April 2016. During 2015, the library service has been working with 13 communities to explore different ways of delivering the service through community collaboration and involvement. Ashburton library’s co-location emerged from the joint working between the community, Devon Libraries and a local business (the Post Office).
The library moved from its former location in the town to co-locate with the local Post Office in July 2015. The library has a dedicated, refurbished space within the Post Office. Funding of £26,000 to support the refurbishment was raised by the Friends of Ashburton Library who, along with the owners of the Post Office, have been critical to the success of the project.
People are now able to borrow and return books to the library for over 50 hours a week as opposed to the previous 15 hours a week. Some of these additional hours are supported by community volunteers and some are supported by the Post Office owners. Devon Libraries also installed a self-service kiosk.
Whilst it is too early to be certain about any changing levels of use, a comparison of stock issue figures for the first 3 months showed that:
- total issues are up 24% on 2014
- children’s issues are up 72%
- over 200 new people have joined the library in the first quarter
Working with a range of local partners who are committed to the delivery of improved access to services brings swift results. Initial discussions through to opening the doors of the library took less than 12 months. Successful collaboration has been based on openness, honesty and integrity between the partners.
It is very important to establish at the outset:
- the lines of communication
- agree who is doing what and when
- make sure there is an agreement for liaison between the key partners.
Community collaboration is key to securing community support and buy in.
The Friends of Ashburton Library and the Post Office owner have plans to extend the digital offer working with the library service. Working with a not for profit IT hardware recycling organisation, they plan to loan laptops and tablets to members of the community. There are plans to explore how a new apprentice, employed by the Post Office, can support the extended opening hours.