The report provided an update to Members on the performance of Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) in delivering the Library Service contract which commenced on 1 November 2017 with a ten-year contract term and the option of a further five years by mutual consent.
In response to a question raised by a Member in advance of the meeting, the Chairman gave a statement with regard to uses of the libraries as warm hubs:
“There is no planned policy change or development of any new service for warm places in libraries, hence why no formal report has been planned for the Renewal, Recreation and Housing PDS Committee as there would not be any role for it in scrutinising policy/service changes. Having said that, on 11 November 2022 it was announced that tea and coffee would be served in Bromley libraries which provide public warm spaces across the Borough (https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/408/tea-and-coffee-to-be-served-in-libraries?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). In addition, should any voluntary agencies wish to offer further warm places in Bromley communities, they are encouraged to approach the Council’s Media Team who will assist in raising awareness and publicising opportunities.”
In addition to this statement, the Portfolio Holder advised that a full schedule would be published shortly outlining the time periods that tea and coffee would be available in each library and a Member requested that further details around the development of this community initiative be provided following the meeting. Members discussed the related issue of public toilet provision which was only available at some of the Borough’s libraries and was not always accessible with details of available facilities to be provided to Members following the meeting. Unfortunately, it was not possible to offer library users access to toilet provision at Central Library due to issues with the building’s infrastructure, although access to toilets could be granted to smaller on-site groups including the blood transfusion service.
In considering the report, a Member was pleased to note that overall monthly issues of all types indicated the recovery of the Library Service beyond 2019 levels, with smaller branches such as St Paul’s Cray amongst those who had seen the biggest increases in use. The Cotmandene Community Resource Centre had temporarily moved to St Paul’s Cray Library due to building issues and the Assistant Director: Culture and Regeneration observed that staff had worked hard to make the co-location a positive experience. Another Member was concerned that overall library visits had recovered to only just under 73% of pre-COVID levels but the Head of Bromley Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLL) advised that this was higher than the national average and that 15% of items issued were now electronic (such as e-books). A Member suggested a virtual membership system be introduced to phase out library cards and the Head of Bromley Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLL) confirmed that a pilot virtual membership system was being trialled in another library service run by GLL; however, it would be important to ensure users were not excluded should a virtual membership scheme be adopted in due course.
In response to other questions by Members, the Head of Bromley Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLL) reported there were currently 75 casual workers working in Bromley Libraries which was a similar number to the previous year. The three business centres established at Bromley Central, Orpington and Biggin Hill libraries to support the Start Up Bromley programme continued to be well-used. The work and meeting space set aside for this programme was separate to the study space available to other library users and both groups brought their own unique energies to the libraries. A Member highlighted issues with the quality of food waste bags on sale in the libraries and GLL would take this forward with the Local Authority which was its partners in purchasing food waste bags.
The Chairman led the Committee in thanking the library staff for their excellent work in delivering such a highly valued service to Bromley residents, workers and learners.
RESOLVED: That the Portfolio Holder be recommended to note the performance of the service provider since the last report on service performance was presented in June 2022.