As Libraries Week comes to an end, below is Mayor Dave's most recent column for the Bedford Bulletin and Kempston Calling:
Protecting and extending our library service
Libraries are very important and I am glad that not only have we protected all our libraries from closure we have actually extended our library service by the introduction of Library Plus.
Over 800 libraries have closed across the country since 2010, whereas in Bedford Borough we have introduced LibraryPlus which has allowed us to extend opening hours, including the first Sunday openings at Bedford Central Library.
LibraryPlus has been successfully running at Bedford Central, Bromham and Wootton libraries since 2017. In that time, over 12,000 library users have registered for LibraryPlus, taking advantage of a more flexible and convenient service with increased overall opening hours, including Sunday and Bank Holiday opening at Bedford Central Library.
LibraryPlus provides a mixture of staffed hours as well as using technology to allow access to customers during unstaffed, self-service hours. During the self-service hours, LibraryPlus customers can enter the libraries to browse the shelves, borrow and return items, use the computers, study and work.
Earlier this year the Council consulted on the extension of LibraryPlus to Kempston and Putnoe libraries which was supported by a majority of residents. LibraryPlus will enable these libraries to be open for more hours overall, we are aiming to increase opening hours from 30.5 per week to 48.5 hours at Kempston and 49.5 hours at Putnoe, whilst still providing core staffed hours where library users can speak to and get assistance from staff.
To ensure that libraries are used safely, LibraryPlus uses a range of systems to support customers during self-service hours, including CCTV monitoring, help points and public announcements.
LibraryPlus has enabled people to use their local library in a more flexible way, and has seen our libraries open more, for example, opening hours at Bedford Central Library went up from 48 to 60 hours every week after it was introduced in 2017.