Have your say on library changes

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A new chapter could be dawning for Central Bedfordshire's libraries.

The council wants residents to help shape its library service as it aims to make savings but ensure that all of its libraries remain open, by proposing opening hours changes while offering additional community benefits.

Its Library Servicehas set out plans for a total reduction of 30 hours split across its 12 libraries, which will help make £85,000 in savings while maintaining a professionally run service.

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A public consultation, which begins on Monday June 13, will ask for feedback and the Library Service is also seeking ways to open the buildings to the community outside normal opening hours, including evenings and weekends. This could be for activities such as health advice sessions, local meetings, or adult education, but will be shaped by suggestions provided by residents.

Under these proposals, all libraries will be placed into three categories – Community Libraries, Area Libraries and Main Libraries – each with uniform opening hours, which will include being closed on one day during the week.

The proposed opening hours for Dunstable Houghton Regis and leighton Buzzard are:

Community Libraries

Barton and Toddington: Tuesday - Friday 2pm - 6pm; Saturday 9am - 1pm.

Area Libraries

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Houghton Regis : Tuesday - Friday 9am - 6pm; Saturday 9am - 1pm.

Main Libraries

Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard: Tuesday - Friday 9am - 6pm; Saturday 9am - 4pm

These changes would mean that current varied opening hours pattern across the 12 libraries would change and be as follows each week:

Barton Library – decrease of 7 hours

Toddington Library – decrease of 1 hour

Houghton Regis Library – decrease of 6.5 hours

Dunstable Library – decrease of 5 hours

Leighton Buzzard Library – decrease of 5 hours

Cllr Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “We are committed to keeping all of our libraries open, which is why we embarked on a refurbishment and modernisation programme in 2012.

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“While we fully intend to do that, the reality is that we now have to work within the constraints of reduced funding. And though libraries across the UK are being closed, we believe we can not only buck this trend, but keep them well-staffed by implementing a new pattern of opening hours.

“This would allow us to keep all libraries open on Saturdays and also give staff the time to keep running popular events and activities. We remain open to suggestions on how to implement these changes and will shape our plans depending on feedback through our consultation, so please do have your say.

“Our proposal is also to make better, more efficient use of the buildings, for community activities outside of opening hours, which is part of the Council’s objectives in the Five-Year Plan to foster self sustaining communities and support people to help themselves and others.”

The consultation questionnaire will be available from Monday June 13 until September 5 at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/consultations and in paper form at all libraries.