Talking to someone about the success of Wembley Library the other day, I discovered that they were under the impression that Brent had simply cut its library services without any further thought. The publicity around the issue has tended to drown out the actual strategy. In fact our approach was very different to the approach currently being taken in Moray and Lincolnshire, which really do seem to be going for widespread closures to simply cut costs as much as possible.
We responded to central government cuts by concentrating our resources on a smaller number of improved buildings. In a densely populated Borough with good public transport links people are able and winning to travel libraries, if those libraries provide quality services. UPDATE: My attention has been drawn to this Guardian article by Sue Charteris. Brent followed very the kind of strategy she describes. UPDATE AGAIN: This post was really intended as a reminder of what our Libraries Transformation Project was. However, a comment below raises the voluntary library issue again. On that we had ten proposals, none of which made business sense and so we did not pursue them.
With the exception of Willesden Library, the proposals are now more or less implemented. The original report is still available, but I thought I would paste the text from that report in italics below to make it easier to find:
• Seven day opening in all libraries, with at least two late evenings
• Additional longer opening hours for students in selected libraries during exam
• A comprehensive range of books, E Books, audio and other media for loan or
• A service that can, within reason, obtain any title that a customer asks for.
• Free Wireless and Internet access for all library users available in all library
spaces; with improved wireless speeds.
• A user friendly and accessible library website.
• Space for study and reading for pleasure
• An exciting calendar of author, poetry and cultural events. Opportunities to join
• Short courses to promote recreational learning and skills for life including
computer training. Opportunities for families to learn together.
• Advice and guidance on careers and training
• Parent and toddler groups, children’s reading promotions, homework clubs,
youth clubs, holiday activities
• A structured programme of class and outreach school visits to support the
educational attainment of children and young people
• Improved range of children and young people’s book stock available in greater
numbers to support Children Young People (and their families) in literacy and
learning development including revision and study guides.
• An enhanced outreach and home delivery service that brings our services to
people who are unable to get to a library. The service also delivers monthly
book collections to day centres, community groups and children’s centres.
• An online reference library with encyclopaedias, general reference works,
newspapers and homework help, available to all library users in the library or
from a home pc.
• A comprehensive reference and community information enquiry service
delivered by trained staff. Residents will be able to access online resources as
well as well-stocked collections of reference books, newspapers and
• Access to and training in the use of innovative technology, with an increased
number of PCs (equipped with assistive technology)
• Further development of an online service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a
• Marketing and promotion to enhance the accessibility and use of library services
• Continuous enhancement of the stock available in all our libraries
• We will promote access to our new E Books service and grow the e.book and
audio offer to meet new reading trends. We will invest in a diverse range of
e.books and audio downloads for customers to borrow. We will also invest in
appropriate new media as it emerges.
• Stock will include fiction of all sorts, community languages, collections of
cultural interest, ESOL, skills for life, up to date information books, e.books &
audio books, large print & talking books. Consultation will take place with
schools and colleges to ensure that stock reflects the curriculum.
• The stock policy will be revised using our new evidence based stock system to
improve customer satisfaction and ensure that stock meets community need.
• There will be more customer involvement in the purchase of stock, in particular
from community groups, valued customer panels and young people, building on
the excellent work at Harlesden.
• In response to customer demand stock suggestion schemes will be visible in
the libraries and online on our libraries catalogue page.
• We will continue to provide stock in alternative formats, such as large print and
audio. Our stock in other languages will reflect the needs of our communities.
• Newspapers and periodicals for customers to browse in the library
• Our reservation process will be streamlined so that customers can get the
books and other items they want quickly.
• We will continue our membership of the London Libraries Consortium through
which stock purchases result in cooperative group discounts allowing us to
purchase greater amounts of stock. Brent residents can borrow books from 14
London boroughs thus ensuring best value for money
• We will ensure via our stock policy that we continue to purchase stock from
specialist stock suppliers in order to meet the stock needs of Brent’s diverse
communities and groups.
• We will provide books on prescription and work in partnership with Brent NHS,
Brent Mind, clinics and doctors in order to support the health and well-being of
• Staff will be knowledgeable and confident in recommending book titles and
We will work towards developing libraries that are modern and multi functional with a
shared service approach. They will boast the following features:
• Safe and neutral places
• Dedicated and well-stocked children’s areas to meet increased use, with
adequate space for class visits, activities and study
• Separate teenage zones that are modern and attractive
• Improved, flexible study areas and quiet zones to meet increased demand
• Multi-functional community rooms suitable for meetings, courses and
performances (available to hire at variable rates)
• Café facilities and a Library shop where appropriate
Six high quality library buildings in accessible locations, all open seven days per
Ealing Road: currently Brent’s second busiest library, Ealing Road was last
refurbished in 2003. It is open 7 days per week, has a busy IT suite that is in in
Harlesden: refurbished in 2010 following a successful Big Lottery application,
Harlesden Library Plus provides library, adult education and council information
services from one building. The library was designed by a community steering group
who continue to play an active role in service delivery.
Kilburn: library is known for its thriving under fives Bookstart story rhyme time
sessions, active adult reading group and selection of quality fiction, best sellers and
author events. It has worked in partnership with local voluntary groups to develop its
outdoor garden and it’s actively engaged in community partnership projects. It is
proposed to source capital funding to improve the library space
Kingsbury: relocated in 2008 to a high street location, Kingsbury Library Plus
provides library and council information services. Since moving the library, visits and
borrowing have increased by over 50%
Town Hall/ Civic Centre: popular library for local residents and council staff and is
located near Asda supermarket, local schools and Children’s Centre. It is well used
for reference and community information enquiries, its IT suite and its selection of
best sellers, literary fiction and up to date information books. In 2013 this function will
move to the new Civic Centre library nearby. A large state of the art library will be the
showpiece of the new building.
Willesden Green: Brent’s busiest library open 7 days per week is arranged over 2
floors within Willesden Green Library Centre. Its generous study area is well used by
students, and its IT suite is very popular. The teen area is busy during after school
hours but also well used for study and tutoring by excluded young people and their
tutors. The children’s library is a favourite space for under fives activities, regular
class visits and holiday activities. A number of organisations share the premises
including the gallery, Brent Museum and Archive and a council customer contact
centre. Close partnership work is undertaken with the gallery and museum to deliver
a vibrant cultural and learning programme.
The Council is currently investigating the possibility of redeveloping the Library
Centre, to include an improved cultural offer to residents. If this should go ahead, a
temporary replacement library service will be provided in the area.
Capital funding for improvements to buildings will be sourced from external grants,
public/private financing and Brent Council capital programmes. In line with the One
Council programme we will continue to pursue the shared service approach, both
with council services, local organisations and neighbouring boroughs.
4.4 Online and Digital services
Brent Libraries will be at the forefront of the revolution to ensure that services can be
accessed on a 24/7 basis and are not limited to static library buildings. Library users will
be able to access a virtual library from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual services
will include being able to:
• Search the catalogue, access library accounts, reserve and renew items online
from any computer or smart phone.
• Book a computer
• Receive overdue reminders by email or text
• Use our online reference resources for study and homework
• Access an online enquiry service
• Borrow e-books and audiobooks online (subject to constraints imposed by
publishers and distributors)
• Join our email list for a monthly newsletter
• Take part in virtual reading groups
• Access virtual homework help
• We will aim to develop a library app for smart phones that will make our services
more accessible, including directions and up to date information about library
events, activities, and services.
• Online bookings for events and activities
• Events and talks will be recorded and filmed for YouTube and podcasts.
Access to technology will also include:
• Free access to bookable public Internet and MS Office services
• Access to and training in the use of innovative technology with an increased
number of PCs
• Access to colour printing and scanning services
• Safe Internet surfing areas for children
• Free public wifi access with improved speeds and more plug sockets
• Access to assistive technology including hardware and software
• Access to fast, efficient self service technology
• Staff will also be able to easily access the technology to answer enquiries. In
response to customer suggestions handheld devices will be purchased to
ensure that enquiries are answered with accuracy and speed
• E.Learning packages
• An interactive, inspiring and accessible website
4.5 Support for children, young people and families
• Safe and neutral spaces
• Improved and increased number of study spaces
• Engage children and young people with a love of reading and resources to
support educational attainment. This includes an improved range of children and
young people’s book stock available in larger quantities to support CYP (and their
families) in literacy and learning development. We will improve our provision of
revision, text books and study guides. For younger children an improved range of
board books, dual language books, picture books, graded readers to support
school reading schemes and literacy attainment, titles for fluent readers and
graphic novels to encourage reluctant readers.
• The information books will support the National Curriculum covering key stages 1
– 4 and also include up to date and relevant study and revision guides in greater
• We will Involve young people and schools in stock selection.
• Develop collections to support progression by young people into further education
and into work and training. We will work in partnership with Connexions to ensure
access to advice on training and further education is available.
• Promote and market e.books to support homework and study
• Outreach services to schools and children’s centres will include learning support,
story-telling, reader development workshops all delivered by trained staff, with an
agreed timetable of visits and performance measures showing activity.
• An enhanced outreach offer, including a book loan scheme in partnership with
youth centres, youth bus, children’s centres and schools to target those groups of
children who do not currently use library services.
• Bookstart story and rhyme times will be delivered weekly in all libraries
• Bookstart pack gifting sessions in all libraries on a monthly basis
• Bookstart Bear Club in all libraries which encourages parents / carers to read to
their children, borrow books and gain certificates.
• We will work in partnership with Brent Adult and Community Education Services
(BACES) and increase the range of exciting family learning courses focusing on
literacy, learning and leisure in all our libraries.
• Chatterbooks Reading Groups will be run, after school on a monthly basis, by
trained staff in all libraries and will focus on fun reader development activities.
• Teenage reading groups will build on the Summer Reading Challenge programme
and be developed as after school clubs focusing on themed group reads, author
events and manga and will be run by young people and trained staff together.
• Homework clubs in all libraries will have qualified teaching support and support
learning development in children aged 8 – 11. Children will also benefit from
reading support delivered by Volunteer Reading Help volunteers (available in
• Virtual homework help for those unable to access a library easily.
• In collaboration with BACES we will support parents / carers whose children
attend the homework clubs through the provision of learning courses.
• Support club for home schooled children and their parents / carers
• We will support children and young people who are excluded (with their tutors) by
providing quiet zone areas for study and additional stock support upon request
• We will support young people during exam periods by opening for longer hours
and sourcing other community venues (through partnerships) for additional study
• The Summer Reading Challenge will form part of our Outreach library offer to
playschemes, disability play schemes, and through partnership working
• User friendly website developed to engage and involve children and young people
in reading, study, leisure and information services, including a presence on BeBo
or similar social networking sites
• Improved cutting edge teen facilities designed by young people
4.6 Support for learners
• E-Learning packages
• Open learning zones and learn direct centres in some libraries
• Attractive study spaces offering laptop provision
• Improved wifi facilities
• Access to e.books, improved study texts and learning collection materials
• Informal ESOL classes
• IT workshops and courses
• Partnership work with Brent Adult Community Education Service to ensure
libraries are a place to access a range of informal learning and ICT classes
• Partnership working with voluntary groups to support learning
4.7 Support for older people and residents who find it difficult to access library
• Our improved home visit service will be fully linked to all libraries so that
customers have access to the full catalogue, including alternative media. Staff will
bring to catalogue to customers via hand held devices.
• The home visit service will be marketed across the borough, and to organisations
working with those people who find accessing services difficult. Strong links will be
fostered with social housing and sheltered housing schemes to create a well used
home visit service
• Monthly outreach deposit collections will be delivered to day centres, community
groups and children’s centres where requested.
• Outreach reading events and activities will be offered to children’s centres, care
homes and day centres.
• Home Visit customers will also get the opportunity to be part of a valued customer
service panel for the service and help drive service improvements as well as be
involved in stock selection
• The Outreach Service will also work in partnership with Brent volunteering
organisations in order to involve local residents in delivering services, such as the
home visit service and to ensure we reach a wide selection of Brent residents.
4.8 Services for people with disabilities
• All staff will be trained in assistive technologies so that residents with disabilities
have full access to library services. This service will be marketed through
partnerships with support groups.
• Books in appropriate formats, such as Braille and talking books will be available
for loan in all libraries, the home-visits service, the outreach services and online.
• All library buildings will be fully accessible for people with disabilities, with
induction loops and adaptive technologies.
• Residents unable to get to a library will be able to make use of our home visit,
outreach and online services.
The staffing restructure will result in increased responsibilities, improved skills and a
more proactive role for staff. We anticipate improved customer care with staff fully
equipped with the tools to deliver modern library services.
• A programme of intensive training will be undertaken so that staff are fully able to
give advice on books, deliver excellent customer care, demonstrate expertise in
finding information, knowledgeable in ITC and trained in the use of assistive
• Staff will be trained to high standards to deliver quality services to children and
young people including under fives sessions, class and school outreach visits
and reading groups
• Staff will be able to deliver well planned and engaging learning workshops and
reading groups for adults.
• Recruitment will reflect our continuing commitment to ensuring that staff reflect
• We will utilise the languages and cultures of staff to ensure that stock reflects the
languages spoken in the borough and community need.
• Staff will be involved in stock selection and promotions as well as in
recommending reads and marketing the library offer.
4.10 Customer and community engagement
• All our libraries have Valued Customer Panels that meet regularly so that local
people can actively determine the nature of their library services. Anyone can join.
• We will work closely with community groups and forums such as Brent Youth
• Volunteers will play an important role supporting staff in delivering the service at
different levels. There will be volunteering schemes for young people such as
Summer Reading Challenge volunteers, who will support children in their reading
challenge. We will also recruit volunteers in further and higher education and back
to work schemes to gain work experience to access work. Similarly volunteer
schemes will be developed to support delivery of home delivery services.
• Libraries will closely consult with the community through regular surveys,
attendance at Area Community Forums, Local Partnership Boards and Integrated
• Improved marketing and publicity commitment with a campaign of exciting
promotions using a variety of media..
• Increased presence on social media sites such as facebook, twitter and the library
• We will develop customer involvement in the design and delivery of library services,
building on the successful work of the Black Identity Zone (BIZ) steering group at
• Increase subscriptions to the e.bulletin mailing list, as a means to target residents
with information about library developments and events
4.11 Partners & partnership working
We will continue our successful shared services strategy and work with partners to
provide a range of services from libraries, including:
• Learning provision through BACES
• Council information through the customer contact centres
• Learning centres through work with Schools, Colleges and adult education
• Support the work of the voluntary sector
• Working with cultural providers including local practitioners
4.12 The cultural offer
Working towards Brent’s cultural vision for 2015 as outlined in the Cultural Strategy
and the proposals in the draft Brent Arts and Festivals strategy we will broker and
develop partnerships to ensure that cultural opportunities flourish and are
showcased in our libraries. This supports our ambition of showcasing excellence in
the various art forms whilst all the while using that excellence to stimulate more local
work and inspire our budding writers (and audiences) towards that goal.
This includes plans to:
• Offer cultural events to create vibrant spaces; including developing exhibition
spaces for artists and writers through partnerships with Brent Artists Resource,
Brent Culture, Sport and Learning Forum and the Arts and Festivals teams
• Showcase and exhibiting art through public art schemes
• Marketing cultural opportunities at the Gallery at Willesden Green Library Centre
• Developing writers and readers through writers in residence schemes and support
for writers’ groups through provision of spaces, events and writing workshops.
• This offer will be extended to improving literacy and engaging children and young
• Supporting the creative industries through workshops and advice delivered in
partnership with business support groups and careers advice organisations
• Build on a calendar of cultural events
• Increase participation in the programmes on offer through proactive and viral