"Engagement" Meetings

Library “Engagement” Meetings

Over the last month or so, the Library Service has held two-hour meetings in different areas to discuss possible developments over the coming months. Our two meetings were held at the Greenway Centre in Southmead, and covered Westbury, Henleaze, Southmead, Horfield and Lockleaze libraries. Each group sat at a separate table, with space for 10 to 12 people, including a facilitator who was not part of the library service – at the first meeting, the Westbury group overflowed onto a second table!  Council officers, including Kate Murray, the Head of the Library Service, and officers from Buildings and Works, were present to provide information, but were not “running the show”. In the introduction, it was made clear that this was not a discussion about reducing hours or staffing or saving money, but an opportunity to explore ways of developing the service. In particular, there is no requirement for the service to make savings until a least April 2020.

The four questions each group was asked to address were:
  • What does your community need
  • What ideas do you have 
  • How can we make this happen
  • What can you do next week
At the end of the session, we were asked to feedback one “big” idea, which would take substantial time and resources to implement and one “small” idea, which could be implemented quickly, at little or no cost…

The “big” idea from both sessions focussed on the need to provide a disabled-accessible toilet, either within or adjacent to the library. Possibly not surprisingly, this was also the main concern of the majority of Bristol libraries! The ability to easily alter the layout of the library space, by having more mobile displays, similar to those at Henleaze was also raised.

There were a number of “small” ideas, including 
  • the provision of external noticeboards, large enough to hold displays visible from or across the road
  • fitting blinds to the windows to reduce glare for people using the computers
  • enabling access for evening meetings (after extended access, so from 7:30pm onwards)
  • providing folding chairs, tables etc. for such meetings
Evening meetings were seen as a way of raising the library profile with other age groups, particularly teenagers, and there was some enthusiasm for the idea of setting up homework or study groups, computer or craft sessions, etc. The library could also be used by the police for their Beat Surgeries. Subsequent discussion with Kate Murray suggested that evening meetings could be given access to the toilet and kitchen areas, and that it may be possible to obtain the necessary insurance without setting up a formal “Friends” group, provided that there was a named individual taking responsibility for the session.

One of our tables also had representatives of the Scouts, who have been looking for some time at the possibility of working with the Council to develop a Community Centre in Westbury. Thus a "very big" idea would be the transfer of the library to such a centre, either the village or on Canford Park adjacent to the present building. 

All ideas from each group were to be collated and the results circulated, hopefully by the end of March. It appears that Kate Murray has a budget of £200k to support some developments, but not every library will get a share.

Overall, the tone of the meetings was very positive but the underlying message was that they wanted to see volunteers coming forward to take on the tasks. The facilitators were generally optimistic about the community doing things for itself, and this could well be the time for us to start putting forward concrete proposals…

The list of ideas submitted can be viewed here and we hope to have a list of responses published in the near future...

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