Proposals to modernise Wolverhampton's library service and further improve provision in the city are set to be presented to councillors next week.

The City of Wolverhampton Council's draft Libraries Strategy for 2017 to 2027 seeks to maintain Wolverhampton's 16 strong network of libraries while modernising the service and exploring opportunities for improvement.

Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: "We know that our libraries are highly valued by local residents, even by those people who for one reason or another don't currently use them.

"Like most places in the country, the way customers use Wolverhampton's libraries is changing.

"For instance, there are fewer active borrowers and book loans, which mirrors a national decline, while at the same time more people are coming into our libraries to use PCs and access the internet, to develop their skills and apply for jobs, to attend events and activities like Baby Booktimes, or to access support services, particularly within our network of community hubs.

"We must also remember that we - like other councils - are facing an unprecedented financial challenge as a result of Government funding cuts, and so we must ensure that our services are sustainable.

"We are therefore developing a 10 year strategy for our libraries which will improve services for customers and which provides value for money for taxpayers."

The strategy was developed following engagement with more than 500 people including library users, community groups, staff and volunteers and seeks to create an improved, vibrant, modern and sustainable library services for people who live, work, visit or study in Wolverhampton. It features specific proposals, including:

  • maintaining provision at 16 branch libraries, and seeking ways of making improvements to them all

  • modernising Central Library, improving the environment in response to feedback from customers, and exploring the creation of a wider City Learning Quarter with the City of Wolverhampton College and Adult Education Wolverhampton

  • reviewing the location of Bilston Library to improve accessibility

Councillor Reynolds said: "Hundreds of people took part in the engagement process towards the end of last year, providing valuable insights into how and why they use their library service and what improvements they would like us to make, which has helped shape our draft strategy.

"I would like to make it very clear that, while many other councils are responding to the challenges they are currently facing by closing libraries, this is not an option here in Wolverhampton. Our strategy is about ensuring our 16 strong library network is fit for purpose and that it meets the needs of customers, now and in the future."

The draft Libraries Strategy for 2017 to 2027 has been guided by a vision developed based on feedback received from people through engagement. It includes ensuring the city's libraries are vibrant, welcoming and safe places to visit, study and enjoy and that wherever possible libraries are co-located with other services to increase accessibility and convenience for customers.

The vision also sees libraries hosting an increasing number of events and activities which help meet key objectives such as supporting reading and literacy, developing skills and employability, promoting health and wellbeing and improving access to quality information.

The council also wants to improve self service facilities, enabling libraries to be open for longer, increase opportunities for people to volunteer and gain valuable skills and experience, generate additional income through activities such as room hire and invest in digital technology like ebooks, talking books and digitised collections, at the same time as stopping investment in CDs and DVDs which are becoming less popular.

The draft Libraries Strategy for 2017 to 2027 and a report which will be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday 22 February, 2017, are available at Type=links;Linkid=8134;Title=Transforming Libraries - public consultation on a libraries strategy;Target=_blank; and Type=links;Linkid=8135;Title=Cabinet Meeting 22 February, 2017 report;Target=_blank; respectively.

Councillors will be asked to agree to a 12 week period of consultation on the draft strategy, which will include public meetings and an online survey. More details will follow shortly.

  • released: Wednesday 15 February, 2017