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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Con­trib­uted

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

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