NATIONAL LIBRARIES DAY EVENTS
The library service has undergone huge change in recent years, with county bosses hoping to put libraries back at the heart of the community. As Saturday was National Libraries Day, JO- ANNE ROWNEY speaks to library service manager David Jones about the f
HE way we think about libraries is changing.
No one knows that more than library service manager David Jones, who has worked with libraries since 1986, and for Buckinghamshire County Council, for five years.
A few weeks ago we published statistics from a Freedom of Information request showing we are checking out fewer books, with some libraries seeing a drop in visitors.
While it cast a bleak picture, it did not tell the whole story.
The library service in Bucks has gone through a long journey, with closures and community volunteer handovers.
Many, such as Chalfont St Peter and Giles, are now thriving while others, such as Beaconsfield and High Wycombe, have been refurbished.
But it is not just the look of the library that is changing, the way we access them is too, meaning Mr Jones has had to think one step ahead.
“We know people are changing the way they interact with the service. We just don’t go into libraries as often to check out books.”
However when muchloved libraries are threatended with closure people are quick to protest.
“People have this affection for the library,” added Mr Jones. “People like to know they are there.”
According to an independent report on England’s public libraries by William Sieghart in December, more than a third of people visit their local library, and in poorer areas, the figure rises to half.
Then there is the fact some people do not have access to technology and turn to libraries for assistance.
“We’ve seen more people learn how to use the library online and older people come in to ask how to use computers. Some people don’t have the internet, especially in rural areas and we are there to provide that,” added Mr Jones.
Are moving away from using libraries to read?
“Not at all,” he added. “It just means we are embracing change, it was hard, at first, to get people to see what we are doing but I think we have made a step in the right direction.”
Part of that step, or leap, has involved working with other organisations.
Healthy Minds holds sessions in mobile libraries, and the police, voluntary groups and the Job Centre all use libraries as a base. There is talk of tourist information, children’s centres and careers advice linking with libraries. But there is more to do. “A library is not easily defined, but the best way is to say it’s a community hub. We need to adapt and find ways to measure their value to reflect that,” added Mr Jones. A LIBRARY showed what it had to offer on National Libraries Day.
Gerrards Cross Library in Station Road, Gerrards Cross, took part in the event on Saturday. People visited and saw the sessions the library offers and the books, DVDs and other equipment available for use.
BOOKS BOSS: Library service manager for Buckinghamshire County Council, David Jones
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE: Martin Baker took people through Libraries Day, on Saturday