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Published 17 November 2017

Councillors are set to consider a proposal to fund a major investment in West Dunbartonshire’s libraries by adapting the opening hours to meet current demand.

The proposals are part of a transformation report aimed at addressing the fact that employee costs in West Dunbartonshire’s library service are the second-highest in Scotland per head of population, and £11,652 above the average.

One of the main reasons for this is the number of libraries in West Dunbartonshire and the fact these many libraries are often open at inefficient times of the day when demand from local residents is low.

A consequence of spending money staffing libraries at these quieter times is that there are limited funds available to spend on improving the service such as more books, better computer equipment and more attractive libraries. This means the service can’t respond to the expectations of local residents, 76% of whom agreed more money should be invested in the buildings and service in a recent survey.

To resolve this officers are proposing to protect all eight public libraries by introducing a new opening hours timetable that would deliver 237 hours of service across the branches every week. This would match opening hours to the highest visitor times of the day and move away from early morning and late evenings when evidence and feedback shows demand is significantly reduced.

The new timetable would fully accommodate valued existing services such as Bookbug, employability sessions and Code Club. These changes would also free up savings which could be invested back into the service with an unprecedented £421k proposed in 2018/19 for improved children’s areas, better display areas, more welcoming help desks, and movable shelving enabling flexible use of space for activities and events.

The Council has also made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant of more than £400k to invest in transforming the inside of Clydebank Library into a state-of-the-art venue for local people. Councillors will be asked to support this application by pledging to invest an additional £118k to the project if the bid is successful.

In addition, to help protect frontline Library and Cultural services as much as possible Councillors will also consider introducing means tested charges to the Council’s music tuition service. Currently most Councils in Scotland charge for music tuition or instrument hire with fees ranging from £83 to £300 with an average of £205.

Under the proposals to Committee pupils studying for SQA exams and those in receipt of free school meals would continue to receive free hire. Those out with would be charged a £85 per year for hire, service and repair, making it the second lowest charge in Scotland.

Malcolm Bennie, Strategic Lead for Communications, Culture and Communities, said: “These proposals would protect all eight branch libraries in West Dunbartonshire and match opening hours to when our residents use the service the most. It would also bring our running costs in line with the rest of Scotland, and create the opportunity for much-needed investment in our libraries to make them even more attractive places to visit.

“Supporting our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund could help transform Clydebank Library into a truly fantastic venue in West Dunbartonshire.

“Introducing modest annual fees for the hire and maintenance of music instruments, some of which can cost as much as £900, would allow us to protect frontline services in libraries and culture in West Dunbartonshire as much as possible."

The proposals will be presented to the Council’s Corporate Services committee on November 29 for a decision.