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Aug 02 2013

Major upgrade for Harrow’s library service

booksHarrow’s libraries will benefit from a host of new technologies, more cultural events, and greater use of libraries by community groups, as part of a phased programme of improvements.

The new services are part of a commitment by new contractor John Laing Integrated Services Ltd (JLIS) which is delivering library services for Harrow and Ealing over the next five years from September.

Government funding cuts have forced Harrow Council to think of innovative ways to keep libraries open along with sustaining a high quality of service. Through the joint commissioning approach for the delivery of library services by JLIS with Ealing library services, and leisure services by Sport and Leisure Management Limited (SLM) with Brent and Ealing Councils, Harrow will save £745,000 per year and improve the services at the same time.

The new contract has also enabled Harrow Council to retain most of its library staff although the sharing of management and back office functions with Ealing Council means a small number of posts may not be needed. Harrow is working with JLIS to see if any individuals affected can be redeployed within the JLIS wider operation. The impact of staff reductions could also be lessened because the service has a number of vacant posts.

The programme of improvements will include:

  • Introduction of Wi-Fi in every library
  • A new library website providing up to date information and opportunities for communities to interact directly with the service
  • A new improved virtual library management system allowing access to the service 24/7
  • Investment in new online resources to support learning and business opportunities
  • An annual cultural programme including events and outreach activities built around community need
  • Increased use of library buildings by community groups outside of normal opening hours
  • A commitment to ensure library stock, including books and e-books, meet the needs of users

In addition, the new contract means that, with the exception of the Civic Centre Library which is merging with Gayton Library from 25th August 2013, the council’s 10 existing libraries and their services will all be retained. Those services include free public internet access, rhyme time and story time sessions for children, and the Housebound Service for those users who are unable to visit their local library.

Harrow Council has set strict targets for JLIS to meet which include increasing the amount of users and satisfaction rates with the service provided.

Harrow Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community and Cultural Services, Cllr Nizam Ismail said: “Harrow’s libraries are a valuable community service. I am delighted that in the current financial climate we are not just preserving this service, but improving it. Over the next year library users will see improvements that will make our libraries more accessible and relevant. Unfortunately we will lose some roles as a result. In those cases we will be working with those concerned to try to find opportunities to work elsewhere”

 

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