On Tuesday 21st March 2023, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet reviewed and agreed a vision and strategy for Buckinghamshire’s library service.
As well as traditional reading and book-borrowing, Buckinghamshire’s library service has transformed to offer many more services including free computer classes, health checks, loanable tablets and a broad range of educational, social and cultural activities for all ages.
Over the winter of 2022/2023 the libraries have also become important welcoming spaces for anyone who needs a warm, free and safe space to visit during the colder months.
The strategy for Buckinghamshire’s libraries adopted today has been developed after extensive consultation with users, staff, volunteers and stakeholders. It outlines the priorities for the service and agrees a clear vision for the future – which is that Buckinghamshire libraries ‘provide welcoming and safe spaces for everyone to access reading, culture and the information and services they need to learn, discover, imagine and thrive.‘
With reading and book-borrowing still at the heart of our libraries, the new strategy reflects the growing use of libraries as community hubs accommodating other services too, for example, registrars and the Junction Youth Club in partnership with Action4Youth at High Wycombe library. Many libraries also now operate as Council Access Points, helping residents with information on wider council services.
The strategy outlines the intention to:
- Attract even more people to reading, including children, for example, by expanding the already popular Summer Reading Challenge.
- Grow the libraries’ cultural offer, such as forging stronger links with arts organisations and hosting exhibitions and theatre shows.
- Promote health and well-being through the Healthy Libraries programme, providing a range of new activities such as parent advice and a men’s mental health project – plus much more.
- Make libraries even more environmentally friendly, such as installing a Living Wall at Aylesbury Library.
Clive Harriss, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure at Buckinghamshire Council, said: ‘The purpose of our new strategy is to clearly outline how libraries will help to widen what we can offer and prioritise communities, health and well-being. It keeps books and reading at the heart of our library service while also recognising their essential role in supporting the community – and also how our libraries have had to modernise to meet our ever-changing and evolving needs.
Importantly, this shows our ongoing commitment to our libraries; these are cherished places which offer something really special and are hugely valued by users. A key priority is encouraging more people to use our fantastic library service, so please come and pay us a visit, especially if you haven’t been into your local library for a while, to see the range of things we offer.‘
The network includes 29 libraries across Buckinghamshire, nine county libraries, twenty community libraries which are run by local organisations or volunteers or jointly managed with the council.
The priorities for Buckinghamshire libraries as agreed at the Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet meeting are:
- Encouraging Culture, Reading and Learning
- Building Stronger Communities
- Enabling Access, Information, and Inclusion
- Promoting Health and Wellbeing
According to the most recent figures, Buckinghamshire Libraries have seen 1 million loans in a year. There were more than 650,000 physical visits during 2021-22 (the most recent statistics) – a period where people were still impacted by some Covid restrictions.
The full strategy that has been adopted can be viewed on the Buckinghamshire Council website.
*Source of information : Press release from Buckinghamshire Council.