The future of the mobile library service in the islands is no more clear or certain after the latest round of Comhairle meetings, with the emergence of new proposals that could see local library services being delivered through new ‘community hubs’ in villages.
At this week’s meeting of the Comhairle’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee, councillors agreed to look at all options for service delivery, and stated that the new hubs plan did not necessarily mean that mobile library services would not form a part of the future service.
Councillors were presented with a range of options at the meeting for the future of the service, including preservation of the status quo, but an option linked to the Comhairle’s emerging Service Redesign process, which sets out to explore new service delivery options with local communities to retain service levels against a background of budget cuts in Comhairle, got the committee’s vote.
But the plans to leave a decision on the future of the mobile library service until after wider public consultations on the Service Redesign, were met with concern by councillors pressing for full retention of the service.
SERVICE IS HIGHLY VALUED
Stornoway South Councillor, Rae Mackenzie, said: “Mobile libraries can’t be beaten in terms of bringing services to the community.”
Stornoway North Councillor, Gordon Murray added: “This service is highly valued by the community, and I thought that this committee had voted to replace library vans, that there would be retention of the provision for mobile libraries and that money was retained and reserved for the library service.”
Harris and North Lochs councillor, John Mitchell, vowed to do everything he could to fight for the service, saying that he had looked at the provision for mobile libraries in six other rural local authorities and everyone ‘had refused to sacrifice such a life-line service.”
Cllr Mitchell also asserted that Highland Council had retained a fleet of eight mobile library vans and recently abandoned “maintenance of tourist toilets rather than lose its mobile library vans.”
However, Loch a Tuath Councillor, Donald Crichton, replied: “The plans for mobile library services are not set in stone.
“The Service Redesign process is a direction of travel involving communities more in delivery of the services. This is a consultation process, and we can look at the element whether the element of mobility is necessary to delivery of the service.”
COMMUNITIES WILL TELL US WHAT SERVICES THEY CAN DELIVER
Uig councillor, and Comhairle Convenor, Norman A MacDonald, said: “It is unfortunate that we are looking at this particular subject.
“Members were very supportive about having a discussion with communities about the future of services, and I thought there was support for the approach that the communities can tell us what services they can deliver in their areas.
“We should make no new decisions until we have discussed this with our communities, to do so would disrespect our communities.”