St Helens Library Strategy

St Helens Council were developing a borough-wide Library Strategy for 2021-26. The Library Review was needed for two main reasons:

•The way we use library services has been changing, with more demand for e-materials and libraries being increasingly used as meeting places by groups. Covid accelerated the changes, but they were already underway.

•There have been deep cuts to funding, which are ongoing. Whilst their library service had been broadly protected, they were aware that savings would need to be made.

The Council were undertaking some traditional engagement activity, such as online and on street surveys. We were commissioned by St Helens Borough Council support this week, with a focus on speaking with people who may not complete the surveys.

What we did

We delivered a series of events and activities where interactive questions and activities:

•Pop-up events from our Campervan Ed in Earlestown Market and St Helens Town Centres, along with a pop-up shop with craft activities, especially to attract children and their adults

•A drop-in event in the Earlestown Wetherspoons pub

•Three online workshops, including one especially for young people

The prompts and activities were designed to encourage people to consider:

•The services they want libraries to deliver – whether in library buildings, online or in community settings

•Which libraries currently work best, and which are more challenging

•The different models of delivering library services, including the roles the community may play.

We spoke to a wide range of people from across the borough, ranging from young children to retired people, those who English was a second language and market traders. We heard how important people feel libraries are as key community spaces, and how much people value libraries – even when they aren’t regular users themselves.

Outcome

The engagement helped to shape the detail of the emerging library strategy, and inform the decisions being made. The range of activity helped to ensure the Library Services heard from all ages and backgrounds.  It included generating new ideas, increasing awareness, and understanding of some of the challenges people are facing in accessing the library services, and helped to increase understanding of how people envisage their library service in the future.

– Kathryn Boothroyd, Library Services Manager

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