Potential library closures in Neath Port Talbot
LIBRARY services in Neath Port Talbot are to get a major overhaul with potential closures on the way.
Council bosses have undertaken a review of libraries throughout the county in an attempt to outline a new direction for the service at a time the authority faces significant cuts to its budgets.
Two potential options have been identified, one suggesting the closure of seven libraries — Cwmllynfell, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, Seven Sisters, Ystalyfera, Blaengwynfi, Briton Ferry, and Taibach, with a total saving of £177,178.
The second proposed option includes those seven libraries plus the closure of Cymmer and Resolven Library, making a total saving of £238,143.
It is also proposed to change the mobile library from a two week to a three week cycle, so it can cover a wider area to include some of the areas subject to library closures.
Community groups and organisations, councillors and interested parties will be asked to share their views during a consultation exercise.
Library staff and representatives from trade unions will also be consulted in the library service review process and bosses hope to minimise redundancies.
The head of partnership and community development, Russell Ward, said: "The council is extremely keen that it supports its staff through this process to minimise the effect of possible job losses."
Mr Ward said they had carried out "a lot of detailed analysis".
He said: "This review proposes that there are a number of libraries that are not viable in terms of public usage and of cost effectiveness, size and are no longer fit for purpose.
"Library services are changing in any event, which has led to a need to review the pattern of service delivery. Stronger community participation and widening the appeal are essential for the service to prosper.
"There has been a consistent rise in the level of demand for home deliver, for providing more services directly to schools and for online/digital content."
In a report for cabinet, it states many buildings are now no longer fit for purpose — with the total cost identified by the asset plan in 2010 for condition and access work being £2.9 million.
Taibach Library has been identified as in the worst condition — grade D.
"Essentially the library service operates from too many ageing, stand alone buildings, which are expensive to maintain and, in some cases, are only partly used by the library service," said Mr Ward.
It is recommended for members of the cabinet to approve the proposals as listed in option two as the "preferred option" for consultation.
It is also recommended that the proposals should be subject to an ongoing equalities impact assessment as part of the consultation process and for councillors to agree to receive a report for final decisions, based upon the consultation in December 2013.
Neath Port Talbot Council currently manages a network of 17 static library service points and two mobile libraries open for 498.5 hours per week and with a stock of 320,000 items.