A LONG awaited consultation that will shape the future of the District’s shrinking library service has begun.

Cuts of £1.05 million to the library service budget will be implements in 2020/21, and were first revealed in January, and have proved hugely controversial since.

There have been calls for more details on what the cuts will look like, and further consultation with the public, and library and museums staff have been involved in two strikes, with a third planned for next week.

Now the Council has launched an “engagement exercise” where the public can have their say on the library service before a decision on its future is made in the new year.

A Council boss said the responses will “help steer our plans for our libraries and find smarter ways to use public money.”

As part of the process, the Council has also released a “needs assessment” of the library service and a profile of each library – which reveals visitor numbers, borrowing figures and cost to the taxpayer of each visit to the library.

Last year there were 1,153,857 visits to libraries across the District, with 1,009,251 books and media items borrowed in that time.

Changes may include altered opening hours, using more volunteers, reducing the services available from libraries and relocating facilities.

Announcing the consultation, the Council said: “It is recognised that libraries play an important role in improving outcomes related to learning, civic pride, community cohesion, tourism, health and wellbeing and economic development, but this requires investment and a collaborative approach to future delivery.

“Bradford Council has made sure that its library network has remained intact, even when the Council’s budget has been cut significantly.

“But while it recognises the valuable contribution that libraries make to the district’s communities, like many other local authorities across the country it has to balance its ambitions with the need to reduce its budget and deliver savings because of government cuts.

“Budget savings for the Library Service of £1.05m have been agreed for the financial year April 1 2020 to March 31 2021 which will leave the Council with an available gross budget of £1.82m to deliver the library service in the future.”

Steve Hartley, Director for Place at Bradford Council, said: “Our Library Service plays a vital role within our communities and for residents across the district of all ages and circumstances.

“That’s why it’s so important that we engage with our residents and listen to their thoughts and views on our plans.

“We want to ensure that their feedback is used to help steer our plans for our libraries and find smarter ways to use public money ensuring we deliver services which are modern, fit for the 21st century and meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

The survey asks people their opinions on the use of volunteers in libraries, the possibility of reducing opening hours, whether technology should be used to replace or improve services and what people’s main priorities are when it comes to library services.

The library profile reveals the level each visit to one of the District’s libraries is subsidised by the taxpayer.

The most popular library in the District is City Library in City Park. Last year it had 217,721 visitors, including 3,001 “new borrowers.”

The cost incurred to the Council by each visit to the library was £3.16.

Shipley Library had 127,150 visitors, with a £1.85 cost per visit.

Keighley had 133,274 visits costing £1.58 per visit, Ilkley Library had 101,552 visits costing £1.60 a visit and Bingley had 90,245 visits at £1.68 per visit.

Wilsden Library, which recently became community run, opens just 9 hours a week – 10am to 7pm on a Tuesday. The profile says it had 493 visitors last year, with 23 new borrowers joining and 414 book renewals with each visit being subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £10.11.

To carry out the needs assessment, the Council asked both library users and non users to fill out a questionnaire.

817 non users from across the district responded, while 1,988 regular library users responded.

Of the non users, 22 per cent that said they did not know where their nearest library was and 46 per cent said they were not likely to use a library in the future.

When asked what would entice them into using libraries, the most popular answers were increased promotion of library events and free internet access.

Of the library users who responded, 95 per cent said they held a library card. 87 per cent of people said their top reason to visit a library was to borrow a book.

And 69 per cent were women.

The majority of respondents said they visited libraries once a month.

The survey closes on Friday, December 20 and to take part visit: www.bradford.gov.uk/consultations/current-consultations/libraries-service-engagement/

There will be drop in sessions at local libraries in the coming weeks. They will be at:

Saturday November 23 at Ilkley Library from 10am to 11.30am, Keighley Library from 12.30pm to 2pm and Bingley Library from 3pm to 4.30pm.

Saturday November 30 at Eccleshill Library from 9.30pm to 11am, Baildon Library from 12 noon to 1.30pm and Shipley Library from 2.30pm to 4pm.

Saturday December 7 at Laisterdyke Library from 9.30am to 11am, Manningham Library from 12 noon to 1.30pm and City Library from 2.30pm to 4pm.

Saturday December 14 at Wyke Library from 9.30am to 11am, Wibsey Library from 12 noon to 1.30pm and Clayton Library from 2.30pm to 4pm.