11 July 2012

A proposal to relocate the public library in Wootton is set to be discussed by Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet next week (17th July 2012).

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

In April this year, the council launched a consultation to ask library users and Wootton residents for their views on a new home for the public library in Wootton. It was identified for relocation as part of the libraries strategy agreed at a cabinet meeting in October 2011.

The current PFI arrangement means the public library at Wootton costs the council around £150,000 to run per year; this is considerably higher than any other comparable library in the county. By changing the PFI contract and moving the public library out of the school, it is estimated the council will save around £75,000 per year.

The relocation proposal also seeks to address the library’s low visitor figures, particularly with regard to older library borrowers - there are just 82 at Wootton Fields Library compared to 711 at nearby Hunsbury Library.

It has not been possible to make changes that have been successfully introduced elsewhere, such as self-service. This means that Wootton Fields Library does not allow the same level of service to the public as other libraries.

There is also limited parking during school hours.

Next week’s cabinet report proposes to move the public library in Wootton from its current location at Caroline Chisholm School into a unit based at the community centre at the Wootton Community and Sports Centre at Curtlee Hill on an interim basis, whilst at the same time developing options for a permanent location for the library. The school library would remain at Caroline Chisholm School.

At a meeting yesterday (9th July) representatives from the school, the school’s governing body and the recently formed Friends of Wootton Library the school said they wanted to look into whether they could retain the public library on the school site by working directly with the County Council outside of the current PFI arrangements.

Cabinet member for customer and community services Councillor Heather Smith said: “We can no longer ignore the high cost of the PFI arrangements and the need for 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.

“Representative from the school community and the Friends of Wootton Library have now told us they want to try to find a way to keep the public library on the school site by working outside of the current PFI arrangements. For this to happen, the school will have to demonstrate how they could address the issues of access by the general public, ensure that the public library could be staffed and run on a consistent basis with other libraries in the county and deliver a saving to the council of some £75,000 a year.

“Until we are sure these issues can be addressed, we will continue with our proposal to move the public library. We have been working to secure a temporary home for the library at the community centre as this was the preferred location identified by members of the local community for the public library in Wootton. And at the same time, we are continuing to develop a long-term option for Wootton.

“Like all other libraries we want Wootton to have self-service facilities, Sunday opening, a Friends of the Library group and volunteers. All other libraries in the county are delivering with the help and support of local people and Wootton will be no exception. This proposal will help ensure that the library remains a resource for everyone in the community to use and support and will help us to ensure we stay on target to keep 36 libraries open in the county.”

The cabinet report is available at http://cmis.northamptonshire.gov.uk/cmis5live/