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Published 25 January 2018

Councillors are set to consider a proposal to adapt library opening hours to meet current demand and fund a major investment in West Dunbartonshire’s branches.

A new timetable which keeps all eight branches open and delivers 250 hours a week of service has been developed following feedback from 1,001 residents − one of the Council’s largest-ever consultations.

More than 70% of residents agreed the new timetable allowed them to visit their local branch at the usual time or at another suitable time. To respond to those residents who said they couldn’t or wouldn’t change their time, officers have added 13 opening hours across the branches each week, made evening openings 7pm at two branches, moved the late opening at Balloch to Monday, and opened until 1pm on Saturdays.

The proposals, set to be considered by the Corporate Services Committee next month, were developed to address higher than average costs for the service. Currently employee costs in West Dunbartonshire’s library service are the second-highest in Scotland per head of population, and this is partly caused by branches being open at times when visitor numbers are low.

The new timetable would fully accommodate valued existing services such as Bookbug, employability sessions and Code Club.

The changes would also free up savings which could be invested back into the service with a major investment of £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. This should make the branches more welcoming and attractive environments and in turn improve visitor numbers.

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 £378, with an average of £230.

Under the proposals to Committee, pupils studying for SQA exams and those in receipt of free school meals would continue to receive free hire. Others would be charged £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.

“The consultation on the timetable was one of the largest ever undertaken by the Council, and that demonstrates how highly our communities value this service. The main finding was that the revised timetable fits with when the majority of residents want to visit their library. We’ve also responded to the feedback by making adaptations to further accommodate as many other residents and groups as possible.

“In addition, introducing modest annual fees for the hire and maintenance of music instruments, some of which can cost as much as £900, would also 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 Wednesday, February 7, for a decision.