With community groups set to be given six weeks to take over the running of 22 county libraries, we take a look at how plans are progressing here in Northampton.
Last week, Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) detailed its final set of proposals to cease running nearly two dozen of its libraries and hand them over to community-led organisations.
Five of these will be protected by statutory status - meaning that should the organisation taking them over fail, the council will step in to run it again.
However, 17 of those will not be afforded the same protected status. Should they fail, the building will close and a library will cease to run.
Here in Northampton community groups have been busy formulating business plans to take over the running of libraries in St James, Far Cotton, Kingsthorpe and Duston.
Those groups will be given a six-week period to finalise the plans once the proposals are ratified at next week's cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May 14.
So what is going to happen to Northampton's libraries?
Here is what we know.
Northamptonshire Central Library - Abington Street: No changes are proposed for Northamptonshire Central Library and it is proposed that the library remains managed by NCC in the current location. This library will form part of the countywide statutory provision. A needs assessment found that it serves a large population, including areas of multiple deprivation, indicating that statutory provision should continue.
Duston Library: No changes are proposed for Duston Library and it is proposed that the library remains managed by NCC in the current location. This library will now form part of the countywide statutory provision - though initially it had been earmarked for community management. A needs assessment found the library serves a high number of children under 10 and a large over-60 population. It also has a high number of active users, the council says.
Hunsbury Library - No changes are proposed for Hunsbury Library and it is proposed that it remains managed by NCC in the current location.
Weston Favell Library - No changes are proposed for Weston Favell Library and it is proposed that the library remains managed by NCC in the current location. NCC says it is currently working with public sector partners including police, Northampton Borough Council and health services to develop a 'wellbeing hub' within the Weston Favell Area and it is proposed that the library will form part of this new development. This is several years away and it is proposed that the library remains in its current location until then.
Abington Library - It is proposed that Abington Library will become a Community Managed Library run by volunteers from the Friends of Abington Library. A needs assessment identified the library was within two miles of Weston Favell and had a 'relatively low number of physical visits'. During the consultation, discussions were held between the friends group and the local community centre about the lease and running costs of the property. Discussions are ongoing between NCC, the friends group and the community centre to find a solution. There were concerns that a community managed library would be unsustainable both from a volunteer perspective and the costs of maintaining the building. It was felt that significant support would be required from NCC. NCC will continue to provide the library infrastructure and support to help the group operate as part of the library network.
Kingsthorpe Library - It is proposed that Kingsthorpe Library will become a Community Managed Library run by volunteers in its current location and supported by Northgate School Arts Academy. This is a change to the original proposal which suggested relocating the library to the Beehive Centre about half a mile away, as a result of feedback from the consultation and positive discussions with the Friends of the Library group and the School.
St James Library - It is proposed that St James Library becomes a Community managed Library in the current location and that St James Library no longer forms part of NCC statutory library provision. A needs assessment has identified that although the library is in a deprived, densely populated area with a high 0-10 year old population, this library is within two miles of a library remaining within NCC statutory provision at Northamptonshire Central Library and has a relatively low number of visits. Discussions have taken place between the Friends of St James Library, local councillors and Goodwill Solutions Community Interest Company and it is proposed that the library co-locate with Goodwill Solutions in the current location. Goodwill solutions will support the volunteers from the Friends of St James Library with property and running costs as well as some paid staffing. Feedback from the consultation highlighted that people felt that the library has provided far more than the statutory provision in the past and there were concerns that these additional services and support would be lost if the library became community managed or were to close. Concerns about the sustainability of volunteers, costs of running the building and accessible opening hours were raised.
Wootton Library - It is proposed that Wootton Library will become a Community Managed Library run by volunteers and supported by Wootton Parish Council as part of their plans to extend the community centre. This would involve a temporary move of the library from its current location in a separate unit outside the community centre whilst the extension work is carried out. There is £60,000 of Section 106 money available for investment into this development. It is proposed that Wootton Library no longer forms part of NCC statutory library provision as a needs assessment has identified that this library is within five miles of a library remaining within NCC statutory provision at Hunsbury. Refreshed book stock, IT infrastructure and full training for volunteers will be provided by NCC and a Community Library Coordinator will work with the community group to provide support and advice.