Changes to St Helens Library Service to come into effect from 26 January 2024
Following approval of the St Helens Library Strategy for 2023-2028 to transform and modernise the service in the wake of government cuts, four libraries will no longer be maintained by the local authority from Friday 26 January.
Article date: 8 January 2024
At a cabinet meeting in October last year, senior councillors approved the five-year strategy which sets out plans to increase library membership, reach new individuals and communities, as well as tackle inequalities - while delivering more efficiently to address severe budget pressures placed on the council which has had funding from Central Government slashed from £127m in 2010 to just £11m in 2023.
Recognising that everyday library-based activities can be achieved without a building-focused service, the system has changed to a network of seven, focusing on providing resources in areas of greatest need, with outreach work such as pop-up libraries, schools library service; home delivery; the reintroduction of click and collect and a big push on digital platforms such as Borrowbox - given the significant increase in usage - among the key aspects to improve the service in the future.
St Helens Library - based in the World of Glass Museum - will remain open, along with Newton-le-Willows, Chester Lane, Haydock, Eccleston, Moss Bank and Thatto Heath - leaving the borough with seven operational libraries, which is still more than some neighbouring borough areas.
Garswood, Rainhill, Rainford and Parr will no longer be council maintained and will close on Friday 26 January, although positive talks continue with groups interested in a community-managed approach in a number of areas. There is a formal community asset transfer process to go through before any buildings can re-open as community managed spaces as per the Community Asset Transfer Policy approved by cabinet on 13 September 2023.
Peter Street and Billinge libraries have already been closed for some time due to expiry of building lease and structural issues, respectively.
Library members who have taken out books from any of the four libraries set to close at the end of the month are able to visit the seven remaining libraries as part of their membership where books can be returned and loaned as normal.
As part of the new model, opening hours will change from Saturday 27 January following feedback from a public consultation, with evening and weekend library users able to visit St Helens and Newton-le-Willows libraries until 7:00pm on a Monday and between 10:00am-1:00pm on a Saturday.
It is anticipated that the new-look service will achieve savings of £338,000 a year - a significant amount as the council tightens its belt in response to year-on-year government funding reductions, while dealing with an increase in demand in adult's and children's social care.
The council will continue to invest in the assets it still has, with Haydock Library set to undergo a £275,000 refurbishment from external funding to become the borough's first SEND specialist library this year - and return St Helens Library to its original home in The Gamble Building once internal refurbishment works are completed.
St Helens Borough Council is still welcoming bids from individuals and groups keen on delivering a community managed library, with interested parties asked to contact Librarystrategy2022@sthelens.gov.uk for more information.
To find out more about St Helens Library Service, including how to become a member or to sign up for home delivery and digital services, visit: www.sthelens.gov.uk/libraries