West Lothian Council is reviewing opening hours at local libraries in an effort to reduce costs and better meet customer demand.
The council is currently considering potential options to bridge an estimated budget gap of £6.7 million between 2020/21 and 2022/23 and officers have identified a range of potential savings measures which could help the council deliver a balanced budget to meet its legal obligations.
The proposed potential changes to opening hours at libraries would save the council £50,000 by reducing staffing levels. The council has sought feedback from library users and the options were discussed at a meeting of the Culture and Leisure Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel last week. A final decision will be made by the Council Executive at a later date.
The potential changes include a reduction in opening hours overall and more reliance on customer self-service. Self-service checkouts already account for 67 per cent of library transactions.
Under the proposed new arrangements, some libraries will only provide self-service on particular days with no dedicated library staff available. Some libraries would also open later in the morning.
Ralph Bell, the council’s customer and community service manager, said: “We have looked at all the usage data which has allowed us to identify customer demand. Many libraries are not well used early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
“The proposed new hours are therefore designed around how our customers use services.
“The council is trying to ensure that facilities remain open and accessible whilst also ensuring that we deliver the required savings.”
Executive councillor for culture and leisure, Dave King added: “We don’t want to have to reduce local services but the funding we receive has not been sufficient to cover the costs of providing essential services for our growing population of younger and older people, creating a substantial budget gap.
“This means we have no choice but to look at options for creating efficiencies, reducing costs and changing services.
“Ultimately the council has a legal obligation to balance our budget and changes to important services are necessary.”