Library service shake-up in Luton to go out to second public consultation

Luton Library theatreLuton Library theatre
Luton Library theatre
It’s due to begin next month

A revamp of Luton’s library services is set for a second phase of public consultation, next month.

Residents, staff and local community organisations are being encouraged to provide more feedback on future library use and the borough council’s aims.

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But the local authority is warning in advance there are “constraints on its resources”, according to a report to the executive.

Labour Challney councillor Khtija Malik told the committee: “The library strategy adopted in June 2020 recognises library services should be shaped by and reflect the communities they serve.

“The service is currently managed and delivered by Active Luton, with the contract due to end on March 31st, 2023,” she explained.

“A comprehensive service has broadly been defined as delivering one which is accessible to all residents using reasonable means, including digital technologies.

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“An effective service must make the best use of assets available to meet core objectives, while recognising the finance constraints,” added councillor Malik, the public health and integration portfolio holder.

The second phase of consultation will involve an online survey and engagement forum with residents, stakeholders, partners and internal colleagues, said the report to the committee.

LBC aims “to create a modern and sustainable library service which meets the needs of people who live, work and study in Luton” while improving the current service.

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“The second phase of consultation will explore a community hub model and the potential of co-locating libraries with other services.

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“This means a place for people to meet or gather, for learning and self-improvement, and for the promotion of health and wellbeing.

“Gathering extra information on these proposals will advance our understanding of the public’s views, which will help inform decisions.

“The re-procured service will be within the available current budget for the two-year period, with an option to extend this.

“Further detailed work will be completed to evaluate financial implications of various options for each library in the town.

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“This detailed options appraisal and business case, with the full commercial and financial implications, will have to form part of the local authority annual budget setting process and be approved by the executive and full council.”

The service is responsible for the management and development of six static libraries in Luton, the central, Leagrave, Stopsley, Marsh Farm, Lewsey and Bury Park community centre libraries, as well as the home library service.

Each offers the same core services, and there are three library access points providing availability to a collection of books.

A task and finish group could be set up by the council to explore the proposals after the consultation is completed.

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“The council should encourage both adults and children to make full use of the library service,” added the report.

“It’s the role of the council to determine how much it spends on libraries and how the service is managed and delivered.

“The current strategy will be reviewed as part of the consultation process. It aims to provide an inspiring service, forming an integral part of a wider community hub.”

Councillors agreed three recommendations including the second phase of consultation to proceed.