In Peterborough, a new delivery model for the city’s library service has reduced its cost by over 20 per cent while increasing public access by 50 per cent. This case study is part of the achieving efficiencies section as well as the different delivery models – libraries (in-house) section of our online Culture Hub.
Peterborough is one of the UK’s fastest growing cities and has a network of 10 libraries and one mobile library. Local residents value their libraries not only for books but as community meeting places and for education, computer and internet access.
Peterborough City Council was keen to secure its library service but faced inevitable budget cuts. In 2014, a service review included public consultation on how people used their libraries. The most valued aspects were the ability to borrow books, access to information and location. Three-quarters of respondents said that access outside of normal opening hours was important. The way people use libraries was also changing, with 90 per cent of book loans now completed through self-service kiosks.
The council explored a range of delivery models and chose the Open+ system, delivered by Bibliotheca, as its preferred option. Open+ uses technology to extend a library’s opening hours, with the system easily controlled from a central point by one member of staff. It can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and customer safety. This option was put out to a second public consultation and won overwhelming support.
Impact of the project
The decision to switch to Open+ has saved £305,000 a year from a £1.5 million budget. This was achieved by moving from 261 staffed hours to 387 hours, of which Open+ enables 238 self-service hours. The cost of the library service has reduced by over 20 per cent while its availability has increased by 50 per cent. These savings were achieved by reducing the number of staffed hours. Introducing Open+ without reducing staff was an option, but would not have made such a significant financial saving. All staff were consulted and voluntary redundancy was offered; no-one was made redundant through compulsory action.
Lisa Roberts, Peterborough City Council’s Head of Culture and Leisure, said that customers had quickly got used to the new system, accessing the library building during the extended hours by scanning their card and entering a pin number. “Customers have found it really easy to use and are grateful that the council has managed to keep all of the libraries open, and for longer, when libraries across the country are closing.”
Open+ has been well received by councillors, with cross-party support, as a cost-effective way of future-proofing the library service for the next five to 10 years. Installing it cost £170,000, which came from the council’s ‘invest to save’ fund.
Looking to the future
Over 15,000 library members have already opted in to Open+ from an active membership of 32,000, with a peak usage of 250 Open+ users in one day. Library usage has risen by three per cent in the first year and the use of libraries by community groups is also growing. Keen to extend this further, Peterborough is inviting other organisations to make greater use of the libraries. For example, police officers and police community support officers are encouraged to use libraries as an alternative workspace and a base between appointments. Peterborough is currently offering support to 64 other councils on how Open+ can help to support their library services.
Key learning points:
- Public consultation was critical to the project’s success: the council listened, adjusted the model where required and achieved full support from councillors and the public.
- There were initial concerns about safety, but comprehensive risk assessment provided reassurance and the technology is robust. The health and safety team approved Open+ with certain caveats (such as restricting it to over-16s).
For further information contact Lisa Roberts, Head of Culture and Leisure, Peterborough City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
This case study has been developed in conjunction with Arts Council England