07 August 2012

The public library at Wootton is set to be moved into a new home following a decision made by Northamptonshire County Council this week (7th August).

It is estimated the move will save a minimum of £1,000,000 over the next 17 years.

For the past eight years, the public library for Wootton has been combined with the school library at Caroline Chisholm School as part of a PFI scheme for the school. Together the libraries are jointly known as Wootton Fields Library.

The current PFI arrangement means the public library costs the council considerably more than similar libraries in the county. The library also has lower visitor figures than other similar libraries, particularly with regard to older library borrowers, and the current agreement means it has not been possible to make changes that have been successfully introduced elsewhere, such as self-service, without adding to the cost. There is also limited parking during school hours.

In July, the county council’s cabinet agreed to end the PFI contract. At the same time, the deadline for a final decision about the future location of the public library was extended until the end of the month.

This extension allowed time for further discussions to take place around the possibility of finding a cost-effective solution that would enable both the public library to remain at the school and address the access issues.

During this time meetings have been held with the head teacher and governing body of the school and the Friends of the Library group but no firm proposals have been put forward.

Therefore the council has made a final decision to move the public library out of the school and, following discussions with Wootton and East Hunsbury Parish Council, move the library to a temporary building based at Wootton Community Centre. The school library will remain at Caroline Chisholm School.

Cabinet member for customer and community services Councillor Heather Smith said: “We thank the school for meeting with us but unfortunately the viability of continuing this joint facility and our ability to address some of the access issues still remains unclear.

“We have given the friends group, together with the school and governing body, as long as we can to put forward a proposal. The public consultation about the library began on 30 April and we have given until 31 July for proposals to be worked on.

“We have therefore made a decision that we will continue with our plans to move the public library out of the school and will be following up our discussions with the parish council around an interim and permanent location for the public library at Wootton Community Centre.

“We simply cannot ignore the high costs of the current arrangements and I am pleased to say that even taking into account all the costs of moving the library, as well as the costs of coming out of the PFI contract, we will save at least £1m over the next 17 years.

“At the same time we will have a public library in Wootton that is more accessible to everyone that needs it and offers the same level of service as the county’s other libraries.

“We have also listened to the concerns raised during the consultation about only being provided with a mobile vehicle. Therefore, we intend to provide a 77 m2 temporary building for the library as well as dedicated space for events and other activities within the community centre itself.

“The new library will have the same facilities as other libraries such as self-service, computers and internet access. It will be within walking distance of the village and shops and is well-placed between two of the three primary schools in the area. With CCTV and lighting, we believe it will provide a good community-centred location.”

The public library will be moved out of the school into its new building during October half-term to ensure minimum disruption to students.

The council will also begin working closely with the parish council on a feasibility study to look at the possibility of a permanent home for the library on the same site.