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SIDMOUTH: Public views sought over changes to library service

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ambitious plans to modernise library services in Sidmouth could see multiple facilities brought under one roof, as Devon County Council looks to cut costs.
The council, which is responsible for running Devon’s libraries, has announced plans to consult with the public over proposed changes to the service.
And Sidmouth is one of 19 libraries across the county that could be rebranded as a “Devon Centre”, offering a number of services in addition to those provided by the existing library.
A unique model for each town will be developed over time, but the revamped “Devon Centre” in Sidmouth could include a cafe, community shop or art space as well as book-lending and computer services.
Honiton and Seaton are among the other libraries that could be affected by the changes, which have been designed in line with recommendations made by Arts Council England, the body responsible for public library policy.
Devon County Council needs to save £1.5 million from its library services by 2017, but Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for the library service, said the need to save money was not the only reason for the proposals.
He said: “Changes in the way people use libraries and in what they expect of the service is also driving this consideration of what a future library service might look like.
“These proposals would see a consolidation of the service focusing on a network of enhanced Devon Centres, with resources and support to community-led initiatives.
“We know that, at their best, libraries have tremendous potential to support people of all ages to develop their skills and knowledge.
“We think these proposals represent the best opportunity to maximise the potential of libraries to support local communities in the future.”
The council’s consultation document says traditional book-lending is in decline as a result of the popularity of online and e-reader technologies and a broader range of services should be offered to communities instead.
The new “Devon Centres” would form the backbone of the county’s future library provision, offering services to encourage reading, support access to information and learning and promote access to wider cultural activity alongside a range of other community services.
Councillor Croad added: “Over the coming months we will be going out to communities to engage them in thinking about how they can maintain a local service, with as much support from the council as we can give.
“I would encourage local residents, groups and organisations to give us their views and to put forward any other ideas or suggestions they have on how we can continue to offer this very important service whilst also reducing costs.
“We are happy to hear from organisations across the county who have innovative ideas on how this could be done.”
Following the consultation, the council will announce firm proposals in the autumn, which will be followed by further engagement with communities.


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