Library bosses at Northamptonshire County Council have moved quickly to reassure library users that a charity voluntary donation scheme to raise more funds is in no way is a threat to the service – pointing out the reverse is true and is another example of the constant work in the county to make sure libraries are hubs at the very heart of our communities.
The council has been heralded by the government nationally as an example of how best to protect front line library services from national budget reductions while breathing new life into the service. As such chief executive Dr Paul Blantern has been chosen to head up a national task force to lead on doing the same nationally reporting directly to the Cabinet Minister Ed Vaisey MP.
What's been done so far?
Last year the council set up a charity called LibraryPlus Trust, based on the world-renowned scheme at New York Public Library, which allows people to make donations to help pay for enhanced services in libraries while regular donators would receive benefits such as invitations to exclusive library and literary events and regular email bulletins on how their donations are being used.
Concern has been expressed that the scheme – launched in May 2014 – is a threat to the free public library service but those in charge of running the services in Northamptonshire have been quick to reassure people that this is not the case.
Cllr Robin Brown said: “Our charity scheme for libraries – far from being a threat to public libraries – is actually a vital tool in helping us to protect them from front line service reductions. We see our library services as absolutely critical in delivering not only traditional library services but also a whole host of other front line offerings such as some elements of children centre services and business start up advice.
“Our commitment to libraries is clearly shown that while other counties have seen closures and reduced hours, here in Northamptonshire not one library has closed, opening hours have increased and Sunday opening has been reintroduced.
“Our LibraryPlus Trust is a response to the economic realities we face and securing more voluntary income for such a treasured service. It is a similar model to that pursued in such wonderful world renowned libraries as New York Public Library – surely no-one would suggest that is an affront to library services.
“We should be proud of our county’s wonderful libraries and the services they offer and be thankful of all those who have showed willing to pay voluntary donations to help the libraries provide more enhanced services for the communities they serve."