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We’re one of few authorities to keep all libraries open despite cuts

  • Comment

Peterborough City Council has implemented a new way of delivering library services.

  • Project: Open+ Peterborough  
  • Objectives: To reduce the cost of Peterborough’s libraries whilst maintaining library provision
  • Timescale: Six months planning, four months implementation
  • Cost to authority: £170,000
  • Number of staff working on project: Five
  • Outcomes: All libraries remain open with an extra 114 hours a week, with a saving of £305,000 to total library budget of £1.5m 
  • Officer contact details: Lisa Roberts

It sees all ten libraries stay open, and for longer hours than they were before, in a climate where almost every other authority has shut some libraries down; 337 libraries were closed between 2009 and 2014, according to Cipfa figures.

Lisa Roberts

Lisa Roberts

We have done this using self-service technology called Open+. Peterborough is the only local authority in the country to have implemented the technology in all of its libraries. It allows us to keep the library open with no staff at particular times.

The technology can automatically control and monitor building access, self-service kiosks, public access computers, lighting, alarms, public announcements and customer safety. It is an extension of the libraries’ current radio frequency identification system, which involves electronic tags being fixed to library items. These tags contain all the information about that item.

With so many of our patrons already accustomed to using self-service, accessing the library by simply scanning

Peterborough library keypad

their library card and entering their usual pin number at the external access control panel was easy enough for them to adapt to. Users can come in, use the building, do what they need to do and then leave, or if they need staff assistance they can visit during staffed hours.

The new model was developed by the city council using feedback received during a consultation, in which the public identified the following three areas as important: books on the shelves, location and access to information. Users were also asked what factors would encourage more use of the library service, with accessing the library building outside normal hours receiving the highest response.

Under the new model, the public can access their libraries for 375 hours per week as opposed to 261 under the old model; that is an increase of 114 hours a week. The mobile library service and at-home service run by volunteers continue without change.

Peterborough library self service

Under the new model, individual libraries would be open for a set number of staffed and self-service hours each week. For example, Central Library, which is was staffed for 40 hours a week, is now open for a total of 55.5 hours, 33 of which are staffed and 22.5 using Open+. The new model has resulted in a reduction in staffed hours from the 261 to 149. Staffed hours have now been matched to when activities are taking place such as reading groups.

There was a one-off cost of £170,000 to introduce the technology at all ten libraries, with an on-going cost of £10,000 per annum. The library service cost £1.52m to deliver before the new model. It is managed by Peterborough’s independent culture and leisure trust, Vivacity. The new model has saved the council £305,000 a year and safeguard Peterborough’s libraries for the future, and to successfully overcome the challenge of transformation in times of austerity.

Lisa Roberts, strategic client manager for culture and leisure, Peterborough City Council






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