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GLOUCESTERSHIRE'S LIBRARY SERVICE IS 'FAIR'

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The library service provided by Gloucestershire CC is fair but has promising prospects for improvement, according t...
The library service provided by Gloucestershire CC is fair but has promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service one star because although they provide a wide range of services and methods of accessing those services, opening hours and stock are poor, and standards of customer care and buildings are variable.

Bill Sanderson, assistant director, Southern Region said:

'The council has conducted a good review, recognises what it needs to do and has come up with a challenging and customer focussed improvement plan. The success of this plan depends on increased partnership working with other agencies and on increasing income generation to invest in service improvement.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Wide range of services.

- Wide range of ways to access services eg visits to libraries, renewal of book loans by telephone, visits to library website, and home visits for housebound users.

- Track record of partnership working to deliver innovative service developments.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- Inadequate opening hours and quality of book stock.

- Variable standards of physical access to buildings, condition of buildings, presentation of services and customer service.

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Improving access to services by targeting resources at increased opening hours, reviewing charges and making casual use of public access computers easier.

- Providing high quality, customer focussed services by increasing the number of staff available for front line duties, training staff better to help support new customers and improving the selection of books and other materials available for customers.

- Actively pursuing opportunities to work in partnership with other agencies to jointly provide library and other public services, in new buildings located at the heart of communities.

Gloucestershire library service spent an estimated£6.436m in 2001/02 on providing services through a network of 39 libraries, a fleet of four mobile libraries making 450 stops throughout the county, a homelink service which delivers books and other materials to residential homes, sheltered accomomodation in 190 locations, and individual home visits by volunteers to housebound people. 1,000 visually impaired customers also received a free postal service for the loan of books on audio cassettes.

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