Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report (copy attached) to provide Members with information about the new Framework of Library Standards (2017-2020), highlighting Denbighshire’s most recent performance where applicable.

9.40 a.m. – 10.30 a.m.



The Head of Customers, Communications and Marketing, introduced the Principal Librarian’s report (previously circulated) to provide Members with information about the new Framework of Library Standards (2017-2020), highlighting Denbighshire’s most recent performance where applicable.


The Head of Service informed members that 17 out of the 18 core entitlements included in the 2014-17 Framework (5th Framework) had been met and the only one which had not been met had been the requirement for the Service to have a declaration publicly available of its Strategy and vision.  This deficiency would be addressed during the first year of the new Framework, now that the Service had entered a period of stability under a new Head of Service.  Of the 16 Quality Indicators contained within the 5th Framework, 7 had set targets.  Denbighshire had met, or partially met, six of these seven indicators during 2015/16.  The only one which it failed to partly meet was the indicator relating to its expenditure on books and resources for public use.  The reason for this being that a decision had been taken as part of the Freedoms and Flexibilities budget setting process, not to strive to meet this target but instead to realise maximum benefits from expenditure by targeting the expenditure on specific types of books and resources based on library users’ preferences.


Responding to Members’ questions the Head of Service:

·       Confirmed that the reduction in expenditure on public resources had not adversely affected the number of book loans to the public.  The Service had taken a conscious decision to spend more of its budget on children’s books during the period of austerity.  This had been contrary to Welsh Government (WG) guidelines at the time, however the new Framework for 2017-2020 would reflect the Council’s approach;

·       Advised that Denbighshire was in the process of entering into a regional book purchasing arrangement with other local authorities in North Wales.  This approach would be far more cost effective for the authority and would realise maximum value for money for the Council;

·       Emphasised that whilst a number of local authorities across Wales had reduced their library opening hours, closed libraries in some areas or transferred their community library provision to town and community councils or the voluntary sector, Denbighshire had only had to reduce its services by a matter of hours across the county and in doing so had been able to keep all the libraries open throughout the county.  By adopting an approach to develop all its libraries as ‘community hubs’, where a range of community services could be delivered, it had been able to invest in its libraries to modernise them, ensuring that they were accessible to all residents.  This approach was very much in line with Quality Indicator 4 of the new Libraries Framework, which focussed on the Service’s delivery of services which supported health and well-being.  Rhuddlan Library had recently reopened following refurbishment and work was about to start to refurbish St. Asaph Library.  An application had recently been submitted to the Welsh Government’s (WG) Museums, Archives and Libraries Division (MALD) for a grant to refurbish Denbigh Library;

·       Informed members that Wi-Fi was now available in all of the county’s libraries. To further the modernisation agenda and support agile working for the Council’s employees the Authority’s corporate Wi-Fi was in the process of being rolled out to libraries across the county;

·       Community use of the county’s libraries for initiatives such as ‘Talking Points’ was increasing;

·       Regular customer satisfaction surveys with service-users were conducted with a view to continually improve, and potentially increase further the types of services available at libraries;

·       Advised that the One Stop Shops (OSS) available in a number of the county’s libraries had been extensively involved with the recent ‘County Conversation’ exercise to seek the views of the public on what the new Council’s priorities should include;

·       Confirmed that the initial problems encountered at the new OSS at Rhyl had now been resolved.  Since Christmas more staff had been allocated to the service in Rhyl which had resulted in two people manning the front desk at all times.  The Police periodically had a member of staff on hand there and discussions were underway with a view to enabling Police Community Support Officers (PSCOs) to utilise the corporate Wi-Fi for the purpose of updating their records;

·       Advised that the Service was currently exploring potential options for extending volunteering opportunities within libraries, at present such opportunities were confined to Duke of Edinburgh Award work and summer reading clubs;

·       Advised that whilst volunteers could be used to enable some libraries to remain open during lunch hours, this would need sensitive consideration.  Volunteers were used in this capacity in some areas of the country, and even the running of entire libraries had been transferred to voluntary organisations in some areas.  Denbighshire had no plans at present to adopt this approach as it saw a professional library service as a vital foundation for developing libraries as community hubs across the county.

·       Confirmed that the Service was constantly striving to improve its services to residents and visitors.  Amongst the initiatives currently under consideration for future improvements were the roll-out of a self-service book return facility and the possibility of extending libraries’ contribution to destination management (e.g. staff becoming Tourism Ambassadors);

·       Advised that there was some concern in relation to the accuracy of the system used to count the number of visitors to the county’s libraries.  With a view to improving the accuracy of the data collected, officers had recently visited Flintshire to examine their data collection system;

·       Confirmed that the Service worked closely with local schools and colleges to support and supplement pupils and students’ learning facilities and experiences;

·       Undertook to explore the potential of working closer with the Economic and Business Development (EBD) Team to enable residents to meet and/or contact relevant officers for business advice;

·       Informed members that the IT facilities in the county’s libraries were on the programme of renewal as the computers available for community use were very well used;

·       Advised that the age profile of library users varied in different parts of the county.   In the coastal towns the user age profile seemed to be much younger than in the central and southern part of the county.  Now that the Service formed part of the Customers, Communication and Marketing Service there was an opportunity for it draw on the Communication and Marketing teams assistance to produce a communication and marketing strategy in a bid to increase user numbers.  Such a strategy could be targeted at different age groups in a bid to entice them to use library services.  Qualified data was available which demonstrated that individuals who had used libraries as children achieved better outcomes in later life;

·       Confirmed that at present the Service supported approximately 30 reading groups across the county;

·       Advised that whilst the Council was keen for communities to make more use of library buildings for community events, facilitating events outside of the libraries’ normal operating hours was proving difficult due to a shortage of people willing to be ‘key holders’ and as such being available to open and lock up the buildings;

·       Advised that discussions were taking place with the Youth Service in relation to what services young people would like to see being delivered from libraries and the opening hours which would be most useful to them.  Whilst all libraries were open late one night a week it would prove difficult to extend opening hours further due to staffing constraints;

·       Informed members that there was an all-Wales Library Marketing Group which led on marketing library services.  In addition, the Head of Service had requested the Council’s Destination, Marketing and Communication Lead Officer to draw up a marketing strategy for Denbighshire’s libraries focussing on their development as community hubs in addition to delivering ‘traditional’ library services;

·       Confirmed that all of Denbighshire’s libraries delivered their services bilingually, they also delivered an e-book lending service.  The introduction of the corporate Wi-Fi to all libraries would in due course enable more and more services to be delivered closer to residents’ homes.


In welcoming the roll-out of the corporate Wi-Fi system to libraries the Committee asked that every effort be made to ensure that the corporate Wi-Fi system was flexible enough to support access to the worldwide web, as some members had been denied access to some legitimate websites when attempting to access them via the corporate Wi-Fi.  This seemed to suggest that some of the security settings were set too high.  The Chief Executive acknowledged that there were minimum security settings which local authorities were compelled to apply, however it was reasonable for the Committee to challenge whether the Council’s current settings were actually excessive and therefore detrimental to the delivery of its corporate priorities.  The Lead Member for Modernisation and Housing undertook to raise this matter with the Head of Business Improvement and Modernisation during a forthcoming meeting.


At the conclusion of the discussion members emphasised the need to promote and market the county’s libraries as community assets available for community use. 


The Committee extended their very best wishes to the Principal Librarian who was due to retire in the autumn, thanking him for his commitment and dedication to the Council and the Library Service.  It was:


RESOLVED that subject to the above observations:

(i)              to receive the report on the Council’s performance in delivering the 5th performance framework of Library Standards and the requirements of the forthcoming  6th performance framework ; and

(ii)             requested that a further progress report be presented to the Committee in 12 months’ time on the Council’s performance in delivering the 6th performance framework and the development of libraries as community hubs.


Supporting documents: