Library shake-up: ‘Can I have two pints of lager and Fifty Shades of Grey please?’

Library books could soon be available from pubs
Library books could soon be available from pubs

Library books could soon be available to borrow from pubs, post offices and shops to counter the impact of cuts to the mobile library service.

Bucks County Council is consulting with parish councils, community and residents’ groups for their ideas on how the library service can reach people in rural under increasingly tighter budgets.

From next month the mobile library service will visit villages monthly rather than fortnightly.

Libraries service delivery manager David Jones said: “For example, would communities prefer a more permanent supply of books at their local pub, say, instead of a mobile library visiting for 20 minutes once a month? This is the kind of question we want communities to help us explore.’

Lacey Green Community Shop has now offered to run a pilot ‘library book exchange’ scheme allowing people to reserve books from a list, then pick them up from the shop and return them later.

Shop treasurer Paul Rogerson said: “Our shop is open five mornings a week, which is more convenient for people than a mobile library that’s there for a short time.”

Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said the council had already successfully set up ‘community libraries’ but they were now looking at the next stage of improving the service.

“We’ve seen how brilliantly communities around Buckinghamshire are now running – and improving – their libraries.

“We’re fortunate in having such a wealth of skilled and enthusiastic volunteers that I believe the kind of creative partnerships we’re dreaming of are well worth exploring. They could add so much vitality to our rural communities.”

The creation of 13 community libraries has reduced costs by half a million pounds and the library service has saved another £300,000 through reducing back office duplication, integrating teams, reviewing routes and timings of couriers, and organising book suppliers to deliver ‘shelf-ready’ stock with jackets, barcodes and labels already applied.

Another £100,000 in savings will be made through revising mobile library schedules from November to visit once a month instead of fortnightly.

Mr Jones said most borrowers used them on a monthly basis, as items were issued on a four-week loan.

Although this will enable the fleet to reduce from four to three, he said there was scope to make more of mobile libraries through developing partnerships to provide a greater range of services to local communities and areas such as advice agencies, benefits information, trading standards and health are all areas that could be explored.