Wokingham Borough Council is set to approve plans to expand and improve its already successful library service.
The borough’s libraries have been bucking the national trend by attracting more visitors, and this week (30 June) the council’s decision-making executive is considering plans that would add an extra 17.5 hours of library opening across the borough.
These expansion plans are set out in The Library Offer, which details the overriding principles by which the council plans to run its library service as well as practical improvements.
These include an overall increase in opening hours across the borough’s libraries with extended opening at Woodley, Wokingham, Lower Earley, Finchampstead and Twyford libraries while reducing cost to taxpayers.
Another proposal is the introduction of self-service at some libraries which would allow members to check-out and return books, pay fines, search and reserve items.
Self-service technology would be funded from financial contributions from major housing developments and would allow the libraries to open with a reduced staff at times.
“Our libraries are well-used, much-loved places and I’m delighted to be putting forward plans to expand what they offer,” said Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for resident services.
“At a time when other areas are sadly closing libraries, it’s wonderful to be able to open ours more often.”
The borough council had considered including some unstaffed opening hours as part of the Library Offer, but following public consultation and further research, it has decided not to pursue this at this time.
The consultation showed residents to be broadly supportive of self-service and unstaffed opening, but a significant number of concerns were raised about the unstaffed hours.
“We’ve listened to what people have told us, so won’t be introducing these at the moment. But it’s an option we’ll keep open because it would allow us to open libraries significantly longer and it may be that, as people get used to self-service, concerns over unstaffed hours will decrease," said Cllr Jorgensen.
"Other authorities are introducing unstaffed opening hours so we’re keeping an eye on how this works for them.”
Read The Library Offer report being considered by the executive on 30 June.