Sunderland City Council has launched a seven week consultation on the future shape of library services in the city.
It comes after the announcement that the council is looking to relocate the City Library to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens by the end of the year.
The consultation is looking to seek the views of library users and non-users including children, young people and families as well as potential partners in the voluntary, community, public and private sectors.
People are being asked how they prefer to access library services, which services they use and how often and how the council can support them to access services, among other questions.
The council is also asking people whether they are aware of the range of services offered by libraries and which of these they value most.
Councillor John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Culture and Wellness, said: “We want to find out how people are using library services, whether they’re aware of the range of library services available and what we can do to encourage them to use them more within the reduced budget we have available.
“When last reviewed library services in 2013 it was on the understanding that the Government’s austerity programme was due to end in 2015.
“But we’re now having to look at services again in the light of unprecedented cuts to council funding which have seen £250million cut from council budgets over the last six years with a further £74m to come.
“We have tried very hard over the last three years to increase the number of people using libraries by taking services out more people in more locations.
“But the number of visits is continuing to fall, in line with the picture nationally, and the number of books borrowed is also in decline.
“So we need to find a way of continuing to make sure we provide library services that people can access at the same time as delivering the savings we need to make.
“One step towards achieving those savings is the decision to move the City Library back to its original home at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
“This will will help sustain and provide real opportunities for both the library and museum.
“Unfortunately this alone isn’t enough to generate the level of savings we need to make so we very much want to hear from people who use library services and those who don’t about what they value most and if they don’t use them, why this is the case.
“We would also be very interested in talking to any voluntary and community groups interested in working with us.”
People have until 21 October to make their views known on the future shape of library services.
The questionnaire is available online here or people can also complete the questionnaire at a number of drop in sessions:
- September 20, 2016 – 3.30 – 5pm at the City Library.
- September 22, 2016 – 10 – 11.30am at the Sandhill Library.
- September 23, 2016 3 – 4.30pm at the Bunnyhill Library.
- September 26, 2016 11 – 12.30pm at the Houghton Library.
- September 29, 2016 9.30 – 11am at the Washington Town Centre Library.Consultation responses will be used to help develop proposals for Library Services.