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The library and information service provided by Wiltshire CC is fair with uncertain prospects for improvement, acco...
The library and information service provided by Wiltshire CC is fair with uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service one star*.

Jane Wreford, director, southern region inspection said:

'Users of Wiltshire's libraries are very satisfied with the service they receive from frontline staff. Access to libraries, across this rural county, is reasonable. However, low spending on books has contributed to a decline in the number of books borrowed from libraries. Wiltshire has looked at shortcomings in relation to the existing service and put in place measures to address these areas. However, the service has failed to develop a clear and consistent vision of how libraries need to change to deliver a 21st century service that meets local need. The resources needed even to maintain present standards are not assured.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

-- The service has a well distributed network of static libraries supported by four mobile libraries;

-- New libraries in Calne and Tidworth are popular with users;

-- Libraries are well maintained and present a welcoming aspect to users;

-- Cost per visit to libraries is low; and

-- Library staff are helpful, knowledgeable and well regarded by users.

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

-- The book stock is not good and declining in quality;

-- The service does not use structured feedback and consultation to inform decsions about the types of books and other items it provides; and

-- The library web site does not promote online reader services or advertise library locations or the mobile libraries' routes and timetables.

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

-- Develop a clear vision for the future of the service in consulation with users and non-users;

-- Develop a corporate identity for the service, that supports the overall identity of the council, so that local people can easily recognise a Wiltshire library; and

-- Develop the library website to provide better service information and exploit the opportunity for enhanced, on-line reader services.

The library and information service consists of 30 libraries, 4 mobile libraries and a home delivery service to people who are housebound. The budget for the service for 2002/03 is£5m.

Copies of the report are available from Wiltshire CC or on the Audit Commission website at


1. The service was inspected as part of the government's best value initiative, which places a duty on all councils to deliver the most economic, efficient

and effective services possible.

2. The inspection involved interviews with council staff and councillors, and members of the public using the service.

3. The Audit Commission inspection service was established to provide the public with an independent assessment of whether best value is being achieved by their local council in the delivery of services. Inspection reports judge how well a service is currently serving local people, based on a star rating from 0-3 where 0 is poor and 3 excellent, and how likely it is to improve in the future.

4. The government has placed a duty of best value on councils requiring them to achieve continuous improvement in local services. Councils must report annually on their performance (best value performance plans) and review their services in order to identify and achieve continuous improvement.

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