The OCC  press release on the future of the country libraries, issued 27 May 2011:

Council plans positive future for county's 43 libraries

Positive proposals to work in close partnership with local people throughout Oxfordshire to provide a bright and modern future for every single one of Oxfordshire's 43 libraries will be the subject of a four-month consultation exercise starting on Friday, 27 May.

The council has listened attentively to the feedback it has received in recent months about the future of libraries. The cornerstone of the proposal to be put forward is that the council will guarantee that every single one of the 43 libraries will continue to receive support in the form of free access to a suitable building, to book stock; to the library stock management system and the expertise of county council employed library staff. 

In addition every library will have the self-service equipment that already operates at some Oxfordshire libraries installed. A total of 22 of those libraries would remain fully staffed by county council employed library staff as at present. There would be use of volunteers in other libraries.

Councillor Keith Mitchell, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said: 'Let me be clear, we enter this consultation from a starting point of keeping all 43 libraries open despite the fact that there is less money to spend. Local communities can help us to achieve that outcome. I'm looking ahead to beginning positive discussions with communities on the way forward. We've moved forward enormously since late 2010 and our initial thoughts on how savings in libraries could be achieved. Essentially, we are meeting communities half-way by acknowledging feedback we have received against a context that we still need to make financial savings.'

What is the proposal?

The consultation document contains reference to a key 'needs-analysis' undertaken by the council based on where people live, work, study and shop in Oxfordshire. Travel and transport accessibility (including for vulnerable groups) and existing demand from current users has also been taken in to consideration.

Based on this analysis, the following 22 libraries make up those that would meet the council's statutory requirement to provide a comprehensive and efficient network  of libraries and would remain fully staffed.

Abingdon, Banbury, Berinsfield, Bicester, Blackbird Leys, Botley, Carterton, Chipping Norton, Cowley, Didcot, Eynsham, Headington, Henley, Kidlington, Littlemore, Neithrop,Oxford Central, Summertown, Thame, Wallingford, Wantage, Witney.

The council would welcome volunteers to supplement these fully staffed libraries, potentially allowing libraries to extend their opening hours.

In addition the county council would like to provide significant levels of staffing to a further five libraries - with a small element of volunteering planned. These libraries are Chinnor, Faringdon, Grove, Wheatley and Woodstock.

There would also be a positive future for the county's 16 other libraries – as a result of free access to a suitable building, to the county's book stock and to the library stock management system.

The staffing emphasis in these libraries would shift from county council staff to volunteers in a phased way over a three-year period; however support from county council employed operational and professional librarians would continue.

These libraries would be Adderbury, Bampton, Benson, Burford, Charlbury, Deddington, Goring, Hook Norton, Kennington, North Leigh, Old Marston, Sonning Common, Stonesfield, Watlington, Woodcote and Wychwood.

No decisions made and no changes in 2011–12

It is very important to note that this is still an early stage in the process and no decisions have been made. Details gathered during the consultation are bound to have an impact on considerations and the council will make no final decisions until the end of 2011. Change would be phased in over a three-year period. No changes to the current network would happen in the 2011–12 financial year.

All libraries to receive council finance

The council is committed to listening to consultation feedback that could add further value to the needs analysis, possibly leading to changed final proposals. Whatever the shape of the final proposals in late 2011 it can be clearly stated that there is no proposal to cease funding any of the 43 libraries.

Staffing issues

Given that the proposed changes include increasing the use of volunteers over a three-year period, it is hoped that the need to make current staff redundant can be minimised given that there will be a natural turnover of staff during that period.

A modern service

The council is determined to take the opportunity to modernise the library service during the period of change. It wishes to continue to explore any opportunities to introduce commercial ventures in to libraries to generate income, work collaboratively with other public service providers inside and outside Oxfordshire whenever possible, investigate the provision of free WiFi across the library network, continue to make sure the library service has a relevant online presence with the ability to deliver eBook and eAudio downloads.

How to have your say

The consultation will run for four months.

People can have their say through the following channels:

·       Completing the online feedback form on the county council website

·       Sending back the FREEPOST feedback form at the back for the consultation document, available at all libraries and council offices

·       Coming along to a library service consultation event

The council wishes to help set up 'Friends groups' at all the county's libraries, where they do not already exist, so that it can work hand-in-hand with communities to deliver sustainable futures for all libraries.

Early days

Councillor Keith Mitchell, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "We do still need to save money from the library service – not doing so would lead to yet more savings having to be made in equally valued services such as social care or highways. However we will have a new and lower overall cash savings target for libraries and we'll make the money in the proposed library budget work very hard with a simple final objective in mind: keeping all of our libraries open."

Councillor Mitchell added: 'These are still early days. The consultation will not close until the end of September, it will be late 2011 by the time final decisions are made and there will be no implementation of the new way of working until April 2012 at the earliest. By working together with local communities I firmly believe that we will jointly be able to come up with ways that will see all of the current libraries continue to operate and flourish.'

To see the consultation document, click here

To see OCC's list of current library activities, click here

And to see OCC's 26 May data paper, click here 

To see details of the initial campaign in March 2011, click here