A new fleet of mobile libraries is set to head out onto the streets of Lancashire – and the vehicles will be visiting more parts of the county than ever before.
Lancashire County Council is planning to trial the service in areas that have neither a brick-built library nearby nor a stop on the current mobile route.
After deciding last year to reduce the frequency of mobile visits from fortnightly to every three weeks – a change which will commence in June – the authority has found that it will have spare capacity to extend the coverage provided across the county.
The trial services will be run on two half days when a vehicle would not otherwise be in use. The new stops will be served for a period of six months and then assessed to determine whether there is enough demand to make them permanent.
“Although we have reopened many libraries that the previous administration closed, it’s clear that there are still many parts of the county that do not have convenient access to a library,” explained cabinet member for cultural services, Peter Buckley.
“This is especially true in rural communities where people often feel isolated.”
The locations of the new stops will be decided after consultation with the 49 parish council areas not currently served by a library and representatives of non-parished parts of Lancashire which are also without direct access to the service.
A report to cabinet members acknowledged that a waiting list could build up for the trials because of the limited time available to operate the additional routes.
Three new vehicles will come into service at the end of this month and a further three in the autumn. The mobile libraries will now operate with five vans in use at any one time and a sixth in reserve – a reduction of one overall.
The revised timetable brought about by the frequency changes will come into effect on 1st June, although the county council has said that all 784 existing stops will continue to be served – 92 percent on the same day of the week as currently and with minimal changes to the timing of the visits. All stops will be for a minimum of 15 minutes.
As agreed by the cabinet last September, requests for new stops within three quarters of a mile of an existing one or a static library will not be considered. If nobody visits a mobile library at a particular stop for six months, that location will be taken out of service.