I have now presented the library strategy at the various Area Forums and events that were advertised. There is still one presentation to go, at the Kingsbury and Kenton Area Forum, but the Head of Libraries will present there in oprder to avoid any accusations of political publicity ahead of the Kenton by election.
All the meetings have been extremely lively, but no one has yet come up with a feasible alternative to our strategy of improved the offer in a smaller number of libraries. A lot of people have argued for improving all the libraries, but the size of the government cuts in our grant mean that that is not a realistic option. After all, if we could not afford things like seven day opening in all our libraries when the last Labour government was increasing our grant year after year, how can we now that the Tory led government is cutting our funding year after year?
The other suggestion that has been made is what I think of as a "genteel decline" option. This would mean keeping all the library buildings, but massively reducing their opening hours. That would lead to a slump in visits but retain the fixed costs of the building, raising the cost per visit. It would also mean many more staff being made redundant. By sacrificing the capital receipt, it would also mean no more investment, making it far harder to develop the service to deal with ebooks or any of the other changes that happen in the future.