Options to secure future of borough’s libraries presented
A series of options to secure the future of individual libraries in Warrington have been presented to the group tasked with developing a sustainable plan to protect them.
At the latest meeting of the Libraries Working Group on Wednesday 6 September, the group were given a summary of the work carried out so far, along with the current options to develop each library.
Over the past six months, members of the group, officers from Warrington Borough Council and LiveWire and individual working groups, have been working together to explore a range of options to sustain, promote and develop library provision within communities.
Warrington Borough Council Chief Executive and Chair of the Libraries Working Group, Professor Steven Broomhead, said: “We are moving forward with our efforts to sustain and develop the future of our libraries service, and the group is working really well together in exploring all avenues and opportunities.
“I’m very pleased that we now have a clear set of options laid out for the group to consider. It’s a really important step forward in defining an achievable and sustainable strategy for libraries, wellbeing and community learning in Warrington. The process so far has retained positive community energy and activity.”
At the meeting at Penketh Library, the group heard how plans to develop that particular library would be explored as part of a masterplan to regenerate the wider area, including the Honiton Way shops, the local swimming pool and youth and community centres.
They also heard how ‘mixed economy’ proposals were being explored at Burtonwood and Culcheth libraries, to introduce new services to the buildings, attracting new users and extending opening hours, while maintaining the traditional library offer.
A similar offer is being explored for Stockton Heath Library - with the separate Friends working group and the Parish Council there currently exploring options to reconfigure the layout of the existing library to provide more space for community activities and possibly a café area which opens into Alexandra Park, in which the library is situated.
Options for Birchwood Library included re-locating the current lending library across the way to Birchwood Leisure and Tennis Centre, which would allow for longer opening hours, or re-modelling the existing library in its current building to provide additional meeting and activity space.
Relocation may also be an option for Westbrook Library, as part of the plans for the redevelopment of Westbrook District Centre. This could allow the library to move to a more prominent unit, where footfall is higher, to enable the library to attract new users.
There were a number of options laid out for Lymm Library - which has generated a good deal interest among the local community over filling the current vacant space within the building. These include a social enterprise running a coffee shop and educational activities, a local charity running a community hub and business incubator, or leasing the vacant children’s centre space to a small local business.
The group also heard how the Parish Council in Lymm had expressed an interest to rent office space within the building – this was presented as a preferred option, which could progress alongside all of the other options.
The group did hear that there had been a lack of partners and local businesses coming forward with suggestions to develop Padgate Library. However, members of the group committed to continue conversations with the adjoining high school and the local community to try and find a solution to sustain the library.
All of these options will continue to be explored and discussed by the group before their final recommendations are made to the council’s executive board in November.
The next public meeting of the Warrington Libraries Working Group takes place on Tuesday 26 September at 2pm at Orford Library.
Meeting papers can be found on the Libraries Working Group page.
About the Working Group
• Chaired by Professor Steven Broomhead, the Libraries Working Group is made up of council officers, LiveWire Warrington officers and independent advisors who come from library users and advocates and the voluntary sector.
• The Working Group’s main priority is to implement a modernisation programme aimed at ensuring a sustainable libraries and wellbeing offer for Warrington residents.
• Its objectives include looking closely at the recommendations received, following the recent consultation on the future of the library service, run by LiveWire on behalf of the council.
• A full set of recommendations will be presented by the group, for consideration by Warrington Borough Council’s executive board, later this year.