Nearly quarter of a million pounds to be spent revamping mobile libraries

Northumberland’s mobile libraries are in line for an upgrade.

By James Harrison
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 10:30 am
Updated Thursday, 9th December 2021, 10:49 am
£220,000 is being spent on upgrading mobile libraries in Northumberland.
£220,000 is being spent on upgrading mobile libraries in Northumberland.

More than £220,000 is to be spent on three replacement vehicles, which will serve some of the county’s most remote communities.

But the scheme is expected to include more than books, with Covid support and other health services also expected to be included in the revamped service.

“We’re in a position where the mobile library units are probably ready for renewal,” said Maureen Taylor, interim executive director of communities and business development at Northumberland County Council (NCC).

“But instead of making that plan specifically for mobile libraries, we’re looking at an integrated model, to make sure we can cover off and reach those far reaching rural locations.

“This plan means that we can get that in train and ready for the spring, with the orders being placed as quickly as possible, so communities will get a better offer.”

The upgrade plans were revealed in spending proposals for the 2022/23 financial year.

According to papers prepared for NCC’s ruling cabinet, the scheme will be funded from a £353,000 underspend in the local authority’s “Improvement and Innovation” department.

Of this spare cash, £222,000 has been allocated for the scheme, which bosses hope will also be used for a range of other “health and wellbeing activities”.

The money will also fund the first year running costs of the three-strong fleet, which is expected to be ordered soon, in an attempt to ensure they are in place by April, in time for the next financial year.

Currently, mobile libraries in Northumberland work across northern, western and central areas.

In the west, where services are run from a van, there are eight routes covered over a fortnightly schedule.

The northern area has 11 routes and the central region has eight, both of which are covered over the course of a month.

Northumberland Communities Together, the organisation set up to coordinate volunteering efforts sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, is likely to have a role with the new mobile units.

Jan Willis, the council’s interim executive director of finance, added: “This will support our work out in the community around health and wellbeing, but will also replace some of the old mobile library units.”