Your editorial (4 December) rightly identifies local libraries as an important community resource, but places too much emphasis on the number of branches and not on two central issues – accessibility and opening hours. There is little point in having a library that has no toilets, no facilities and which is inconvenient to reach. Nor is there much point in a building where the budget has to be cut back to such an extent that it is never open.
In the London borough of Brent, we chose to prioritise opening hours and services over the number of buildings, and saw impressive rises in the number of visits and loans.
The buildings were easily accessible by public transport, with full disabled access, improved book stock, better IT services, longer opening hours, and had better environmental performance. This last is especially important if the local authority is to afford the cost of heating. This not only allows the buildings to be used as “warm banks”, but also as spaces for digital education for those who struggle with technology, meeting points for community events, and even a way of bringing footfall to our high streets.
Author, Transforming Brent Libraries