Whatever the national picture, our libraries are thriving, especially at Hook
One thousand new people joined Hook and Chessington Library between April 2008 and March 2009! That is pretty impressive and far exceeds the other libraries in the borough.
The librarians believe that this is because the Hook Centre itself attracts many people who might not otherwise go into a library.
And that figure is even more remarkable when you realise that it builds on the huge jump in membership during the previous year, after the Hook Centre opened in January 2007.
At South of the Borough Neighbourhood Committee this week we were presented with a review of the library service, paying particular attention to our local branch. Here are some more facts from that review:
- Across the Borough 3000 children enrolled on the Summer Reading Challenge, at least 500 of them through Hook.
- Bookstart packs have been distributed to 100% of 1 to 3 year olds in the borough.
- 33% of borough residents regularly use a local library.
- Kingston University, Kingston College and the Library Service have got together so they can make resources available to each other and jointly promote what they offer to local residents.
- Visits to the website have increased by 9%.
- There were an astonishing 11,548 attendances at Baby Rhymetime sessions which introduce the very youngest to the fundamentals of language that underpin successful reading. These are particularly successful at Hook.
- Hook Library had 45 class visits from the five local primary schools.
- There were 118 computer classes at Hook, covering everything from inroductions to computers to digital photography.
The only thing that concerned me was the drop in the numbers using the public computers in the libraries. A couple of years ago the libraries introduced a charge for using a computer after the first hour, which had always been free. I was very sceptical about this, as it was hitting at the very people who were most excluded. My view is that the libraries should be introducing paid-for services (such as access from home to online resources that do charge) aimed at those who can afford it, whilst keeping the provision of basic access free at the libraries.
However, the libraries went ahead with these charges, because they needed to generate some income. But my scepticism was justified and not only has usage dropped but so has the income. So I am hopeful that the charges will be dropped when the library charges are finally agreed for 2010.