Consultation plan over library resource service closure proposal

1 December 2017

Schools are set to be asked for their views on a proposal to close the Derbyshire and Derby City Schools Library Service if a consultation is agreed at a meeting next week.

The Schools Library Service (SLS), which is not connected to schools' own libraries, provides support and resources to schools and educational establishments across the city and Derbyshire and is provided jointly by the city council and us.

Our Cabinet will decide at its meeting next week (Thursday 7 December 2017) whether to hold a six-week consultation asking schools and other agencies which use, have used or could use the service for their views on the proposal to close the SLS.

Based in Kedleston Road, Derby, the SLS offers a range of educational resources on loan to schools. The main resources are artefacts, but the service also provides books, paintings, prints, posters, DVDs, CDs, textiles and resource packs. Other services it offers include a library advisory service and in-service training sessions for teachers (INSET).

The use of the SLS has been declining over a number of years with figures showing that in 2016/17 only 143 out of 425 Derbyshire schools and 42 out of 109 Derby City schools used the service − a total of 35% of eligible schools. In 2015/16 the number was 37% of eligible schools.

Despite work to halt the ongoing decline of schools using the SLS, including work to raise its profile, developing new services and offering the service to a wider range of non-school customers, over the past nine years the SLS's income from loans and services has reduced by about 43%.

In 2016/17 the funding received by the SLS was £176,000 (£149,000 from us and £27,000 from the city council). The money is currently taken from local authority maintained school budgets, but this amount is in decline due to the growth of academies.

With changes to funding school budgets likely to come in to force over the next two to three years, the SLS would have to raise minimum charges (based on current use of the service) to a much greater level.

For example it may have to charge £33 for the loan of each project and a £1,170 subscription fee, as opposed to the current minimum charges of £5 for a project loan and £230 for a basic subscription.

The service did not reach its income target by £29,000 for 2016/17 and the shortfall was met from reserves. It is estimated that the remaining reserves in the service would only be able to support it for another year.

Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism Councillor Barry Lewis said:

"It is important to recognise that this is not about school libraries. They are separate and are not affected by this proposal.

"We would not propose to close any service without a great deal of thought but in this case we believe the Schools Library Service will not be viable in the future.

"The number of schools and other educational providers using it is dwindling every year and academies are not buying in to it.

"If Cabinet agrees, we will hold a six-week consultation and ask all schools and other organisations for their views before a final decision is made later next year."

If Cabinet agrees to the consultation, it would launch on 1 January until 11 February 2018.