A four year plan has been set out to ensure Blackpool’s libraries play a more relevant role in residents’ lives.
It is hoped the shake-up, called Books and Beyond, will improve overall literacy skills and give children better preparation for starting school.
Other priorities include providing more access to computers for people who do not have home internet facilities, and reaching out to those who rarely use libraries at the moment.
Coun Gillian Campbell, libraries portfolio holder, said the plan was “a means of ensuring that Blackpool libraries remain relevant and accessible to readers and residents of all ages.”
She added: “It is important that the service actively responds to the present and changing needs of local people, and this plan provides the strong foundation for that to happen.”
Key elements are
Improved levels of school readiness in particular around speech and language.
Encouraging more people to read through active use of libraries.
Helping more residents to take part in digital activities and education courses.
Stronger links between libraries and communities.
It is hoped to achieve this through an enhanced programme of library activities, and by improving connections with schools with an ambition to ensure every primary school pupil in the town is a library member.
Other proposals include setting up more adult reading groups and creating co-working environments in libraries for use by freelancers or start-up businesses.
Following the scrapping of library fines in April 2019, fees to reserve books could also be axed, while there is also the possibility of providing mobile ‘pop up’ libraries to go out into the community.
It would cost the council an additional £97,000 on top of the current libraries budget of £1.8m a year to introduce the improvements set out in the plan.
But it is hoped this would be offset by the benefits to residents’ wellbeing taking pressure off other services.
A report to councillors says just over a quarter (28 per cent) of people have used Blackpool’s libraries in the past three years, but there has been a “major lack of direction” for the service.
It adds: “Capacity, consistency and operational culture issues have all
been identified as limiting potential.”