The Library Service

Introduction

Hampshire County Council’s Library Service is part of the Culture, Communities and Business Services department and one of the largest library services in the country.  There are almost 600 staff are employed in 45 libraries, 3 Discovery Centres, and 1 prison library.  There are also 5 community managed libraries.  Hampshire Libraries hold over 2 million items of stock and receive around 6 million visits a year.  In an increasingly digital era, over 15% of issues and renewals are carried out online.  Self-service facilities for checking in books is available in almost half of the libraries.  All libraries have public computers and WiFi, providing free access to the Internet.

Strategy to 2010

With fewer people ready physical books, the role of the library is ever changing.  You are more likely to see a coffee shop in libraries, you will have access to free Wi-Fi and if you do not want to access the Internet with the small screen of the portable device you may have with you, you can use a library Desktop PC.  The Council have decided to reduce its book fund from April 2016 from £2.1m/annum to £1,6m/annum and spend the £500,000 saving investing on the library buildings and developing the IT offer such as “Code Clubs”.  Some libraries are in very expensive locations with respect to rent, so lower cost locations will be sought as long as the location is in an area of high footfall.  Eastleigh library for example is not in an idea location since it is out of the way, unlike its original location next to the Point..

Mobile libraries are being phased out as they are costly to operate.  The Hampshire villages that were benefiting from this service probably do not have a good Broadband service since there are too few houses to justify an Internet Service provider installing a telecommunications cabinet that costs in the order of £100,000 each.  Nor do these villages have regular bus services.  Maybe, the large house-building programme that is so desperately needed to start around these villages?

As part of the library service strategy to 2020, the libraries have been categorized into one of four tiers.  A Tier 1 library would be one of the larger libraries that are known as Discovery centres.  Eastleigh’s library in the Swan centre is a Tier 2 library.  If it were in a higher profile location, it has been estimated that it would have sufficient visitors to upgrade the library to a Tier 1 library.  The library in West End is a Tier 3 library.  That is a library managed by Hampshire County Council with community support.  According to the Library Service Transformation documentation, the viability of all Tier 3 libraries will be reviewed starting 2017.  Therefore, West End’s library will be under review from this date.  Some Tier 3 libraries will be downgraded to Tier 4 libraries, but in West End library’s favour is the coffee shop initiative Hatch Café, introduced by the Parish Council in 2014.