The Group Manager Sports and Physical Activity presented a report which outlined the Council’s performance against the Welsh Public Library Standards (WPLS) sixth framework for the period 2019-20
The Group Manager Sports and Physical Activity explained that on the 1st October 2015, BCBC transferred the operational management of a range of cultural services, including the library service, to the Awen Cultural Trust. The statutory duty to provide the library service and report on its performance remained with the Council, but Awen, under the terms of the management agreement, provided the Council with the information required on performance in relation to the standards to satisfy itself that the service is meeting the desired outcomes.
The Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust thanked the officers involved and was pleased to see that Awen Cultural Trust (AWC) was rated the best in Wales in a survey. He added that AWC had been working closely with BCBC for a number of years in the strategic planning of library services and how work had been carried out in investing in children and young people
The Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust outlined a number of changes that had occurred during the start of the pandemic. He stated that there was an increase in E book and E Resources being accessed during that time as well as 30% more people using the library services overall. He added that there was a further increase in people receiving books from home, which BCBC encouraged through the pandemic.
The Director of Operations at Awen Cultural Trust explained that Welsh Government for the next 2 years were not going to be issuing assessment reports as they had done in previous years. Instead, they would be providing analysis of how library services across Wales had responded to the pandemic. This was largely down to how library services have had to react and cope in different ways to the effects of the pandemic.
The Leader highlighted the importance of the mobile library service and how beneficial it had been during the pandemic, particularly for people who were shielding/self-isolating.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations welcomed the report and agreed with the point that libraries were not just books, that they were a place for a number of resources as well as use of computers. She was pleased that the quality of the computers had been improved which showed that the strategy was about providing quality over quantity. She added that the outreach to younger people was really positive as reading was an important part of learning.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations asked how the replacement of the older vehicle used for the mobile library had been in terms of operations and had there been any feedback or comments of the new vehicle. The Director of Operations at Awen Cultural Trust explained that the new vehicle had allowed for a more efficient service as well as improve the delivery to a wider scope of the community.
The Cabinet Member Social Services and Early Help welcomed the report and echoed the comments from the Cabinet member. She believed books to be an important part of learning and an escape for many so was pleased to see the service doing so well. She asked that with the increase in digital demands, were the plans to keep the same level of printed books or move towards the digital books.
The Director of Operations at Awen Cultural Trust believed that the demand for printed books was not going to drop in any significant numbers any time soon, but this was something that was regularly monitored. He added that it was on a year by year basis whereby the demand was looked at and how and where to invest funds. He added that this year, funds had been increased for e-books due to the pandemic and the library being unable open.
The Cabinet Member Social Services and Early help thanked the library staff for their hard work in the community
The Chief Executive commented on the second recommendation in the report and emphasised the importance of this moving forward. He explained that one of the challenges was to continue to invest in libraries and enhancing their role in terms of providing a community hub for working or for accessing particular information or services. The Leader added that moving forward, the service would need to adapt to needs and trends of what people want, and asked the for reassurance on this. The Chief Executive of Awen Cultural Trust confirmed that this was the case and provided an example of a Click and Collect service during the pandemic. He stated that this had proven to be extremely popular and would likely continue post-pandemic.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
· Considered and noted the content of the report and Appendix 1 recognising a positive year of progress against the Welsh Public Library Standards;