Labour Councillors have set out proposals to invest in libraries across Rotherham as part of their new library strategy.
The plans would see a new town centre library built over the next four years, and the libraries at Thurcroft and Swinton relocated into new buildings. Brinsworth Library will move into its new purpose built building within the next few weeks.
All 15 libraries in the borough should see new public computers and IT equipment, information screens and signage under the plans. New, moveable shelving, public toilets and refreshment facilities will also help to ensure that the buildings can be more flexible when being used by community groups or other council services.
Overall the package would amount to a £7 million investment in Rotherham’s libraries, which are highly rated by local residents. In addition, library fines for the late return of books are to be scrapped as an incentive for more people to borrow.
Labour’s Cllr Sarah Allen, Cabinet Member for Cleaner, Greener Communities, has led the work on the new strategy. She says:
“Libraries are a much loved part of our communities. We know how much people value them. But under the Tories, nearly 800 libraries have closed since 2010. We want things to be different in Rotherham. Instead of closing them down, we want our libraries to be living, vibrant parts of our communities, providing important public spaces.
“More than 20,000 people borrowed books from our libraries last year and more visited for other reasons. We want to see that number continue to rise, and everyone to be served by high quality, modern facilities. That is why we are proposing this investment, to secure our libraries for years to come.”
The proposed improvements across a number of Rotherham’s libraries include:
- Brinsworth: the new building is scheduled to open January 2020.
- Dinnington: first floor improvements through the replacement of shelving, furniture, flooring and I.T.suite.
- Greasbrough: to complete the 2018 refresh it is proposed that the existing library shelving is replaced and improvements are made to the Children’s area.
- Kimberworth: paint the interior and modernise the space including new furniture and flooring.
- Kiveton Park: co-location of the Youth Service, offering opportunities for the community to utilise the new facility to improve skills and learn, flexible meeting spaces for community groups to be formed and work together with other services in the new joint space to enhance services to the community of Kiveton Park.
- Mowbray Gardens: general modernisation of the Library including painting and replacement of furniture, shelving and flooring is proposed in order to improve the internal specification.
- Swinton: is within the boundary of a site which recently formed part of a tender for improved community facilities and new housing. It is proposed that the library is relocated into the former customer services building, with this remodelled accordingly.
- Thorpe Hesley: the library offer available at this location is restricted based on the size of the Library space available. Thorpe Hesley is significantly smaller than other sites and the location is not ideal. Investigations have been carried out and are ongoing to identify a more suitable location, without success to date. Until a suitable location can be identified the current site will be improved through the replacement of existing furniture and shelving where this is required in the short term.
- Thurcroft: potential to relocate the library from the Primary school to the Gordon Bennett Hall. The relocation of the building will make the facility more visible to members of the public, thus increasing the number of those accessing the Library service.
- Wath: it is proposed that the whole library is modernised with a refreshed interior including new library furniture, shelving and carpet along with the introduction of new heritage, toilet and refreshment facilities along with improvements to the exterior of the building.
- Wickersley: existing furniture and shelving will be replaced across the whole library.
Aston, Rawmarsh and Maltby have been recently refurbished so require less work, but will benefit from new IT equipment and signage.
Central Library in the town centre is proposed to be relocated to a new purpose built facility adjacent to the markets complex from 2023, partly financed through the government’s Future High Streets Fund, if the council’s bid is successful.
Cllr Sarah Allen has also said:
“A new central library would be the jewel in the crown of our new service, but it also allows us to reconsider how we can best use the limited resources available to us and facilitate other improvements across the service. That in turn allows us to address some of the challenges faced by other locations. And by opening up the spaces to other uses, including making it easier for people to access other council services and information, we can build on the great work already being done and look forward to the future with confidence.”
The strategy will be considered in a report by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 20 January, and will be subject to a further round of public consultation before it can be formally adopted.