Cabinet Member – Councillor Gareth Thomas
To consider a report on the above.
*11.30am – 12.30pm
To accept the report, noting the observations made during the meeting, and to recommend to the Cabinet to adopt Option 1 in the report as the provision model and best implementation of the Mobile Libraries Service in the future, namely:
A (monthly) Home and Delivery Service provided by 3 smaller vehicles (electric/hybrid vans), each with a driver for:-
Following the retirement of a driver in the next 1-2 years, a (monthly) Home and Delivery Service provided by 2 smaller vehicles (electric/hybrid vans), each with a driver for:-
The Cabinet Member for Economy and Community and officers from the Economy and Community Department were welcomed to the meeting.
Submitted - the report of the Cabinet Member for Economy and Community seeking the guidance of the scrutiny committee on the Mobile Service for Homes following a review of the current and historical provision within the Library Service. Members were invited to consider several options, based on the Service's findings of current demand and usage of the service, and savings that could be made from reviewing the pattern of provision.
The Cabinet Member set the context, noting that a number of benefits were seen to arise from the new system of Service delivery, which had started during the Covid crisis, and that the arrangement was increasingly appreciated as time went by.
Members were given an opportunity to ask questions and make observations. During the discussion, the following observations were noted:
· Although it was accepted that people welcomed the home service, there may be a need to urge and encourage people to venture out and socialise following the pandemic.
· Carers, etc., who called at people's homes, could pick up books and take them to the individual during their work time.
· The mobile vehicle could visit village halls, for example, when groups or 'paned' clubs met there.
· The use of electric/hybrid vans to provide the service, instead of the large lorries, was welcomed.
· It was understood that the new way of delivering the Service was not an opportunity to save money, and if the service saw the need to maintain the status quo, there was money available for that.
· The decision to introduce the change during the pandemic was questioned and it was asked whether it would be better to wait for things to settle first.
· Not visiting mobile stops would mean a 17% reduction in the number of households in Gwynedd who were within reach of a fixed or mobile library, and since the majority of the county's population lived in the towns anyway, that meant 17% of rural residents.
· People who were housebound, for whatever reason, very much welcomed the service to the home, and the scheme needed to be further developed, as well as given more publicity, e.g. by including an item in Newyddion Gwynedd. It was also suggested that it would be an idea to e-mail all councillors to inform them of the Service, asking them to disseminate the information via the main social media platforms to the residents of their wards. The Library Service Manager agreed to follow this up.
· The choice of books on a van is quite limited, and the service to the home expanded the choice of books, and reached everyone in the county.
· It was questioned whether people would want to congregate in a confined space like a van in the wake of Covid anyway.
In response to the observations and questions from members:
· It was noted that concerns had been raised prior to the pandemic regarding the year-on-year reduction in the numbers using the mobile stops, and that the length of stay at those stops had also declined over the years.
· It was explained that the service's previous experience and figures suggested that the reduction in the use of the mobile stops would continue in the future, as the pattern of life and people's needs had changed. Also, the stop was not ideal in bad weather, and the facility of having the service delivered to the home was more attractive.
· It was agreed that it was possible to develop the idea of improving the level of support given to Service users by, e.g. providing ICT equipment and internet access in mobile libraries, and using the service to enable residents in rural areas to access other Council services. Reference was made to two specific examples of how the new approach to the provision of a home delivery service had been successfully utilised, namely the use of a tackling poverty grant to provide period products to the home, and the 'Library of Things' project, which offered equipment on loan to the home, as part of the circular economy. It was noted that the service was working with a number of agencies and services in promoting these proposals.
· In terms of visits to groups, etc., it was noted that the service was able to respond to many enquiries of this type, targeting and tailoring the service to meet a host of different needs.
· It was noted that it was believed that there was enough slack in the system at present for one driver to be able to deliver the service across Arfon and Dwyfor, but that there was a need to tread carefully. This would have to be piloted first, but could be a further option when planning the service for the future.
· It was explained that the Welsh Public Library Standards Quality Indicator target had been set by the Welsh Government and measured proximity to a library, static service point, or mobile service point. However, by delivering to the home, it could be argued that the service reached 100% of the population.
· In terms of the timing, it was noted that the Covid period had allowed the Service to experiment, and as a consequence, it was seen that there was a different solution, which could reach more people and provide a better service.
· It was noted that people welcomed the reading packs prepared for them by members of staff, and that this was a good way to introduce readers to new authors.
The Library Service was thanked for the excellent service provided during the lockdown periods, and appreciation was also expressed for the audio books service.
RESOLVED to accept the report, noting the observations made during the meeting, and to recommend to the Cabinet to adopt Option 1 in the report as the best provision and implementation model for the Mobile Libraries Service in the future, namely:
A (monthly) Home and Delivery Service provided by 3 smaller vehicles (electric/hybrid vans), each with a driver for:
Following the retirement of a driver in the next 1-2 years, a (monthly) Home and Delivery Service provided by 2 smaller vehicles (electric/hybrid vans), each with a driver for:
1. Arfon / Dwyfor