Libraries merger approved

LIBRARY and council contact centres in Coldstream and Duns will be brought under one roof now that Scottish Borders Council has agreed that the services should be integrated in six towns across the region.

By combining the services, and in the case of Duns also bringing in the registrar service into the town’s library building, SBC expects to save £130,000 a year in revenue costs and a further £60,000 a year in property savings, plus the sale of surplus to requirement buildings could bring in almost £260,000.

Cost savings, combined with a decline in the number of people using both the library and contact centre services, persuaded councillors that bringing the services together was the way forward.

Councillor Graham Garvie, executive member for culture, sport and community learning, explained: “This is not primarily a cost-cutting exercise. However, by bringing libraries and contact centre services together we can secure savings and retain the full range of services delivered from library and contact centres to ensure that both stay locally available. The Library and Information Service restructure will modernise the service and result in the development and improvement of both the quality and range of services offered to the public.

“There has been extensive consultation and many concerns have been taken on board. The changes proposed by the council will deliver improvements in partnerships across the public sector and to the quality and range of transactional services and information offered to the public. Unlike in other areas of the country not a single library will close and I welcome this as a good news story for the Borders.”

In Duns and Coldstream, Kelso, Jedburgh and Innterleithen the towns’ libraries will be used for the new combined services.

There was little opposition to the changes in Coldstream, the community council welcoming the fact that by bringing the contact centre services into the library it will increase the hours that the contact centre service is available to the public, changing from just one day a week to opening hours across four days.

In Duns, both the community council and Friends of Duns Library were concerned about the loss of library space by bringing in the registrar services as well, and before councillors approved the full package they were told that the final layout plans will minimise the impact of combining the services and these plans will be sent to the community council and will also be displayed in the library before the changes take place. As part of the proposed changes, councillors were told that £360,000 has been set aside in this year’s capital programme to make the necessary alterations including additional work at Duns library.

Staff will be trained in both the library and contact centre roles and SBC admit that once the changes take place the number of qualified librarians will be reduced and there will be no qualified librarian based in the branch libraries, something that has not gone down well in Duns.

A review of the region’s library services which took place alongside the integrated service plan revealed that degree qualified librarians were spending about 40 per cent of their time manning the front desk rather than carrying out qualified librarian tasks. The restructured service will reduce the number of senior librarians in the region to three but their roles will become more defined, freeing them up to focus on service development “providing professional expertise and ensuring it is consistent across all library service points”.

Libraries that are not affected by the integration plans, such as Eyemouth and the mobile library service, will not see any changes in the immediate future. However, councillors were told that they “will be subject to future review”.