Libraries Deliver. We all know councils funding has changed fundamentally over the past decade. In 2016 Bath & NES Council reached a key decision point for public libraries. It could either follow government advice to establish new sources of libraries income or drastically cut services. It chose to cut. Council opted out of Libraries Deliver, the government’s 2016-2020 transformation and income generation scheme and embarked on a deeply costly and backwards scheme with a loss of two thirds of public libraries. While the national average stands at one public library per 18,000 people, we now have one per 60,000 people, taking Bath & NES to the very lowest provision in England.
Had council instead implemented Libraries Deliver we would be in a very different position. The new income streams identified totalled more than a £million, with enhanced services including a new training and event hub at Bath Central Library. Bath & NES also passed on new national funding schemes such as the Arts Council’s £4m Libraries Innovation for Everyone Fund.
The good news is it’s not too late. The income is still there for the taking. The only thing missing is council vision and ambition.
Makerspaces are innovative, income-generating and long overdue in Bath & NES. Loved by library patrons worldwide, these are spaces to learn, make and try. With equipment from 3D printers to innovative software, laser cutters and ever virtual reality headsets, makerspaces feature strongly in the UK’s Digital Strategy. They are recognised for their social and economic outcomes and a natural fit for Bath & NES as a creative and digital industries hub. Bath Library’s event room would make an ideal first makerspace with scope for librarians to programme a wide range of courses, workshops and projects. And as our city has no public arts centre, the opportunity to also develop traditional arts and crafts complete this no-brainer win.