South Gloucestershire Council has backtracked on controversial plans to close or severely restrict opening hours at many of its libraries after thousands of people voiced opposition to a range of cost-cutting options outlined in a recent public consultation.
Instead, councillors have voted to investigate the use of a new technology, known as ‘Open Plus’, which it is claimed allows users to access the full range of library services without the need for staffing. This technology includes access using pre-approved library cards, and the use of CCTV for security and the identification and management of problems. Users are able to issue and discharge stock themselves, using existing self-service facilities, and access IT facilities.
The new technology would allow registered members to use library facilities for 11 hours a day, seven days a week, between 9am and 8pm.
It had already been decided that Bradley Stoke Library would utilise Open Plus technology, and this is currently in the process of being installed, in parallel with the leisure centre redevelopment. The council now says it will use the Bradley Stoke site as a “pilot”, to help identify how the new technology could be rolled out across South Gloucestershire.
If the decision is made to implement the Open Plus solution, it would require the council to make a one-off capital investment of up to £400,000.
The council’s Environment and Community Services (ECS) committee has also agreed to recommend a preferred option that would reduce the library service savings target from £650,000 to £500,000 (per annum, ongoing), which will help retain a higher level of staffed hours than had previously been envisaged. In the case of Bradley Stoke, these would reduce from the present 45.5 hours to 35 hours a week.
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