Like many local residents Binky can dash past the door of Alresford library several times in one week but today he went inside to have a chat with Hilary and her team. Here’s what Binky found out about what our Hampshire library has to offer, the changes that could be on the horizon and most importantly, what you can do about them.
First there are a few surprises! For a start, Alresford library is not all about taking out books; there is a wide selection of audio books and mainstream magazines available on 7 day loan including: Good Housekeeping, Marie-Claire and Top Gear! There are also books with large print and there is a public access computer and printer and a pretty sophisticated photocopier.
The children’s section upstairs has over 1,500 titles (including Binky’s own three books: Binky’s Big Adventure (set in Alresford) plus his Winchester and London adventures and there are also audio books which are sometimes just what is needed to inspire a love of books in a reluctant reader. There are some real favourites: Cressida Cowells’ How to Speak Dragonese which is read by David Tennant and Anne Fine’s Step by Wicked Step with its great opening line “Even before they reached the haunted house, the night had turned wild.” We asked Hilary to name one of the most popular children’s authors, (according to Alresford’s young borrowers) and would you believe she said Enid Blyton.
Actually The Book Trust agrees, listing Five on a Treasure Island and The Enchanted Wood in their 100 best books for 6-8 year olds.
Downstairs in the main library is an even bigger collection of audio books for adults, offering hours of interesting listening for those of you who travel a lot by car or just prefer the spoken to the written word with titles like, Martine Bailey’s Appetite for Violets, which gets top mark from the great Fay Weldon and for those of you who prefer a good thriller there is Tom Bales’ Skin and Bones. Of the hard copy books, the number one, most borrowed book probably won’t surprise you; it’s Paula Hawkins’, The Girl on the Train which has been borrowed over 100 times and is this year’s most reserved book.
Changes could be on their way to your Hampshire Library
One of the reasons for writing this blog post was to make you all aware that there is currently a public consultation process going on in Hampshire about how to transform and modernise the library service. There is a quick online questionnaire which you can complete to say: how you are currently using the library service, to comment on some of the changes that are being discussed and to contribute your own ideas for how Hampshire libraries could be ‘transformed and modernised.’
Library statistics show a nationwide decline in the number of individual library visits and Alresford shows the same downward trend. The Guardian reports that in 2013-14 there were 282 million visits to public libraries and 9.9 million active borrowers and this represents a fall of about 12% from 2011-12.
Although most library metrics are pointing downwards: library closures, less funding, cuts to staff numbers and fewer visitors, there is some reason to be optimistic According to The Reading Agency, children’s book borrowing has risen in the last ten years and 77% of 5-10 year olds now use the library. One notable success has been The Summer Reading Challenge and in 2015, 786,547 children joined the Challenge and there was a notable surge in the number of under 4’s taking part.
Our own Alresford library had 5129 individual visits in August 2015 (boosted by the Summer Reading Challenge), falling to 4,200 in October and the monthly figures for the last year pretty much bob around the 4,000 visitor mark. At a first glance, this might appear impressive for a small town library but the trend is still downward and it is likely that library provision in Alresford will change.
Have your say and don’t delay
Having our own local library is not something we can take for granted so have your say by completing Hampshire Library Service’s short questionnaire. The consultation period ends on 16th January 2016, so there is not a lot of time left. Here are all the links you need.
Public Consultation – Hampshire Library Service Transformation
Consultation on the Draft Strategy to 2020
Here is the link to the survey itself
Please pass this on…
Use the social share buttons at the foot of this blogpost to email this to a friend or share it on Facebook or on Twitter. Hilary and her team will be very grateful if you do complete the questionnaire and join us in having your say about our local Hampshire library in Alresford.