More libraries, doubled opening hours, new state of the art IT equipment and extra services could all be on the books for library users in Salford.
The city, which launched the UK’s first free public library in 1850 is planning to buck the national trend by expanding its service in the face of hundreds of national closures or volunteers being drafted in to run libraries.
A report will go to Salford City Council’s cabinet next week for approval to invest £590,000 over the next four years across the service, including spending £100,000 on replacing all IT equipment and providing digital learning as requested by members of the public.
The funds will help to provide library services from seven new sites, including a watersports centre and local leisure and community centres.
The money from the council’s capital programme will help the council save £1.26 million over four years through better use of technology and by locating services alongside partner organisations.
City Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett said: “This will be an investment in the future of our city.
“Libraries not only help people learn, gain qualifications and open up better paid jobs, they also provide free access to digital technology which helps people save money and gain new skills. They are essential for lifting people out of poverty and developing a life-long love of learning.
Ambitious plans for the next four years will see Salford libraries expand into seven new sites, some offering library services in that area for the first time. These are: Irlam and Cadishead, Worsley and Broughton leisure centres, and Beesley Green, The Valley and Wardley community centres and the Helly Hansen Watersports Centre bringing library services to the thousands of people who live and work at Salford Quays for the first time.
Weekly opening hours will be doubled and extra opening hours in the evenings and at weekends are also in the pipeline.
New investment in IT facilities will involve more than simply upgrading computers.
Library visitors will be able to charge personal laptops, tablets and mobiles and print from them.
Digital novices will be given more support to get online, while those wanting more advanced or specialist learning will also be helped.
Mayor Dennett added: “Last year nationally over 350 libraries closed and over 300 more faced closure or were being transferred to communities to run them. To be able to announce the complete opposite of that – expanding and upgrading library services – is amazing and such a bonus for the people of Salford. We cannot put a price on the return this investment will generate in terms of supporting local people to learn, grow and achieve.”