New ways of managing the borough’s libraries are being investigated with the aim of protecting local branches while looking at ideas to improve the service.
Across the UK as many as 600 libraries have closed or are facing closure according to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
Wandsworth councillors will consider a joint market testing exercise with Croydon Council which would examine whether external organisations could take over the day-to-day management of local libraries across both boroughs.
The councils' existing in-house library team would prepare a bid to continue running the service which would be tested against external providers such as other local authorities, private companies, library trusts and community organisations.
Each proposal would be examined to determine whether it offers an improved level of service and/or better value for money.
Councillors say any possible changes to the way libraries are run in future must guarantee future provision across the borough and offer real benefits for local communities.
The forward-looking study would also look at new ways of involving residents and community organisations in library management so each branch provides a service more closely tailored to local needs.
Executive member for environment and culture Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "With the need to make £70mn of savings by 2015 we need to look at better, more cost effective ways of delivering services.
"The easy option would be to follow what other councils are doing and close branch libraries. Instead we want to do everything possible to protect our libraries while looking at ways to enhance the excellent service our residents expect.
"By sharing our buying power with other local authorities it may be possible to get a better return for the investment we put in. These are all things that would be considered as part of our investigation.
"In Wandsworth we have taken the incredibly difficult decision to reduce opening hours at some libraries so that our entire library network can stay open. My hope is that this investigation will help us return every branch to its previous timetable."
The study will also establish whether a third-party organisation would be better placed to seek out commercial opportunities and find new ways of raising money to fund the future of each branch.
Other services and organisations may be given the opportunity to base themselves in library buildings, saving them money and improving their presence in local communities.
June 29, 2011