New Vision for Our 'Neglected' Libraries; Action Plan for the Future Has Been Drawn Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

ANEW vision has been unveiled for libraries in Northumberland after a review found the service has been "neglected" for years.

A seven-point action plan has been drawn up by consultants Shared Intelligence in a bid to develop a sustainable future for libraries in the face of massive pressures on the county council's budgets.

The report includes transforming the role of the frontline service - with the creation of three flagship "community hubs" which would combine library provision with things like customer services, tourist information and culture.

One would cover the area from Morpeth north to Berwick, the second would take in all of the Tyne Valley and communities such as Ponteland and Prudhoe, with the third covering south east Northumberland.

The hub libraries would be at the top of a three-tier system, including smaller local or market town libraries and an expanded network of "community partnered" branches run by local organisations and located in buildings such as community centres.

In addition, there should be a special digital-focused library in Blyth or Ashington, providing a "dynamic" service for young people and a focal point for computer technology. Shared Intelligence says the county council will have to decide whether the suggested model is right for Northumberland, and if there are any existing library buildings which are not sustainable under the new system.

Their review - which was commissioned by Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) North East - highlights strengths in the service, including examples of innovative community access libraries and highly knowledgeable and committed staff.

However, it also found that county council budget cuts in recent years had resulted in a network of libraries which doesn't appear to be meeting the needs of local people. …