Devon County Council’s financial situation has never been as challenging as it is now, with soaring inflation, surging demand for our vital services for vulnerable children and adults, and rapidly rising costs.
We recently agreed a budget that will increase our spending on children’s services and adult services to keep up with increasing demand.
But spending more on priority services to meet growing demand means we must make savings elsewhere.
We are looking across all our council services to make sure that we are getting the most value out of every penny we spend.
Against this context, we are proposing changes to the way our library service supports and serves people at home, and we would like your views please to help inform our decisions.
Our libraries deliver a range of services that serve people in the community. One of the ways our libraries do that is through our current fleet of four mobile library vans.
Three of the four current mobile libraries are about 15 years old and have reached the end of their practical life. They have become unreliable, sometimes unroadworthy, and expensive to maintain. The fourth is about nine years old.
Collectively, they spent about 670 hours off the road last year and a lot of that time was due to vehicle issues and maintenance. While the vans are off the road, Libraries Unlimited have been unable to maintain a reliable mobile service.
Due to our challenging financial situation, sadly we cannot afford to replace them, and therefore, we are proposing to stop the mobile library service this year.
We would like to explore with you how we can ensure that everyone continues to have access to their local library or library service.
As well as feedback on the options already offered by Libraries Unlimited, within this consultation, there is an opportunity for individuals and organisations to suggest alternative proposals of how they would like to continue to engage with the library service in Devon.
Your feedback will help shape the future library service to meet residents’ needs better.
Our current mobile library vehicles
The four mobile library services operated by Devon County Council and Libraries Unlimited have a current route of 374 stops working on a four-week rotation.
These stops include a variety of local community buildings, including churches, village halls and schools, with an average of 5 visitors each in stops for 2022. Most villages are timetabled to have one stop every four weeks which lasts generally for 30 minutes.
Mobile libraries can offer only a limited service due to their size, with a small book collection and limited access to the broader range in static libraries or online.
In the community, 80% of mobile library users are over the age of 41 with higher-than-average use by females. It is believed on average that over 25% of mobile library users hold another library card for static libraries. Mobile Library users has decreased by 44% in the last 10 years.
In 2012 there were 161,317 loans, 55,793 visits by 5,546 active members.
In 2022 there were 51,130 loans, 14,872 visits by 3,080 active members.
Our wider Libraries data shows that more people are choosing to engage with libraries in new ways, with an increase in digital borrowing by 84% in the last 4 years, whereas mobile library engagement has decreased by 68% in the past ten years.
Alternatives to Mobile Libraries
We are seeking your views on the proposal to end the mobile library service, and about the alternatives on offer to enable you to continue engaging with the library service if the mobile service did close. For more information on these services, please visit www.devonlibraries.org.uk.
We are also aware of community run libraries across the County in community halls and public spaces which are not supported by Devon County Council but do provide access to small stocks of books and other material.
Local Library – There are 50 libraries across Devon, providing access where people live, shop and work. Libraries in the city of Exeter and towns across the county provide a range of services, including free Wi-Fi and internet access, events, and community activities as well as space to meet and connect with others. Some also offer meeting rooms for hire, support for business start-ups and Workspaces.
Digital – The broad range of eBooks, audiobooks, digital magazines and digital newspapers has become very popular in recent years – available 24 hours a day.
Good Neighbours – Membership for friends, neighbours and family wishing to choose and deliver books to people not able to get to the library.
Home Library Service – Delivers books to vulnerable and isolated customers who are unable to get to the library because of health, mobility, or caring responsibilities. Dedicated volunteers choose and deliver books, including large print and audiobooks, free of charge and often have time to chat.
Have your say
Devon County Council would like to hear your views on the proposal by 26 May 2023. To do this, please follow the link below to the consultation.