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Gwynedd library services see success of home book delivery scheme

GWYNEDD Council could scrap its current mobile library service amid the success of a home book delivery scheme introduced during the pandemic.

The mobile service previously used to visit around 140 rural communities at designated times, offering locals a chance to borrow from the limited selection of books and audio materials carried in the vans at any one time.

But when the library service was partially restored last year, ongoing social distancing restrictions meant that it was no longer possible for people to climb onboard and browse.

This saw the introduction of a new on-request home book delivery service, which saw users select a book of their choice – either over the phone or online –  or alternatively to allow libraries staff to select books on their behalf based on their their preferences.

Meeting on Thursday, Gwynedd’s Education and Economy Scrutiny Committee recommended that such an arrangement should now continue even after the pandemic, hailing its success while also offering some cash savings going forward.

Three vans each currently serve the county’s three regions, namely Arfon, Dwyfor and Meirionnydd, with a driver attached to each.

But the new proposals would see two smaller and electric powered vans delivering the users’ requested books direct to their door, while also not replacing one of the current drivers who is approaching retirement.

The report, which was approved by ten votes to one with two abstentions, noted that officers not received a single comment on the lack of availability of a mobile library in a village or housing estate since the changes were essentially forced upon them.

Cllr Alwyn Gruffydd favoured an alternative option, however, offering a single van and driver continuing to offer a mobile service for the whole county.

The report went on to note, “During the lockdown period, access to library items has been available in a different way that satisfies the demand from the residents of Gwynedd, and it may be that the presence of a library vehicle as a congregation point in rural communities is no longer such a factor in providing and delivering a service as it once was.

“It is our view that there is an alternative method for service provision following a period of testing demand during the Covid-19 crisis, and we are offering a new working model that will be more efficient in terms of resources, and able to satisfy the changing need and demand from users, allowing us to respond more flexibly to the needs of our users.”

Cllr Gareth Thomas added, “The choice was always relatively restricted on a van as you can only carry so many books.

“In my view this service offers a much wider choice and is an improvement on what was on offer before.”

The views of the committee will be considered by the council cabinet after a public consultation phase, with such arrangements likely to save around £32,000 a year if formalised.


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