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Reduced library hours become permanent as new consultation begins

As Armagh I previously reported, temporary cuts to local library opening hours will now be made permanent and will take effect from October.

And a fresh consultation will open next Monday, May 18, so that the public can help shape just which hours the various libraries open.

The decision was taken at a special meeting of the Libraries NI Board is Lisburn yesterday (Wednesday), when it approved the proposed policy for library opening hours.

This policy explains how library opening hours are established and sets out the revised opening hours for each library which will take effect in October 2015.

Libraries NI held a public consultation on the proposed opening hours policy and proposals and says it was pleased to receive almost 4,000 responses.

It also says that, after due consideration of the feedback received, the Board of Libraries NI approved the policy which had been amended to take account of views expressed in the consultation.

The policy involves all public libraries being categorised into bands based on level of use, with the revised opening hours reflecting this use.

Professor Bernard Cullen, Chairperson of Libraries NI, said: “Libraries NI was obliged to reduce opening hours at short notice in November 2014 due to in-year budget cuts.

“The purpose of this exercise has been to develop a policy following proper consultation as the basis for determining library opening hours.

“The Board has also agreed the number of hours that each library across Northern Ireland will open from October 2015.

“The Board recognises that reducing opening hours reduces access to services and will impact on library users. This decision has not been taken lightly and is a better option than closing libraries.

“We would like to acknowledge the DCAL Minister Carál Ní Chuilín’s decision to provide a measure of protection for Libraries NI in the Draft Budget 2015/16 to ensure that there would be no library closures.”

The public consultation, which focused on the policy and the proposed opening hours for each library, included an equality impact assessment and a rural impact assessment.

Following on from this Board decision, Libraries NI will now undertake a further period of local engagement with customers to agree the most suitable opening hours’ pattern for each library.

Irene Knox, Chief Executive of Libraries NI, said: “We recognise that the review of library opening hours is difficult for our customers and our staff and we would like to thank everyone who has engaged with us during this process.

“Current library opening hours will remain unchanged until there has been a further period of engagement with customers regarding the actual pattern of opening hours in every library.”

This further period of consultation will take place from Monday and will run until Saturday, June 13, and the resulting opening hours pattern will be implemented in October

Opening hours were reduced last November on short notice and were stated at the time to be temporary.

In Armagh City, the number of hours had been reduced from 48 to 44.5. The changes will see that increased again slightly to 45 hours.

Newry Library was cut from 57 to 52 in November and that now drops to 50.

In both Lurgan and Dungannon, 57 hours became 51 hours and now that is to go down to 50.

Portadown and Banbridge’s opening hours were reduced from 48 hours to 44.5 hours. Here it is proposed that the temporary opening would increase by half an hour, but still falling three hours short of the original pre-cuts opening.

Brownlow Library had been cut from 40 hours to 39 but that will now be reduced to 35.

In Keady, opening hours were cut in November from 33 to 29, and it will now go back up to 30.

There will be no changes to Tandragee and Bessbrook, which remain open for 25 hours a week, and Richhill and Crossmaglen will each remain at 18 hours a week.

To view the full approved library opening hours which will be implemented in October 2015, click here.

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