Staff facing redundancy as Dorset Council library strategy rolls out

Libraries run by Dorset Council including Swanage and Wareham, are being reorganised with changes to staffing roles and opening hours.

All library employees were asked to apply for the new jobs but many will be taking redundancy, including five Swanage library staff, when the new strategy, which Dorset Council says is “cost neutral” comes into effect on Monday 1st July 2024.

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Swanage library

Swanage library users told the consultation that they wanted more/better opening hours, not less

Five Swanage staff taking redundancy

At Swanage library, five members of staff are leaving, unwilling or unable to sign the new employment contracts, which include the requirement to cover shifts at other libraries.

Dorset Council is now advertising for five new members of staff to work across Swanage and Wareham libraries, with at least 40 library staff vacancies across the Dorset Council area.

A Dorset Council spokesperson said:

“We don’t yet know the final redundancy numbers through this process because it depends on final outcomes, following all the interviews held, and choices that staff will make.

“We are now recruiting where we know we have vacancies. We give assurance that our libraries management and HR teams are supporting all individuals through this change.”

Publicly available on the Dorset Council website on Friday 14th June 2024, there were 41 library jobs advertised:

  • Ferndown, Verwood and West Moors: 9 part time vacancies
  • Blandford and Sturminster Newton: 7 part time vacancies
  • Swanage and Wareham: 5 part time vacancies
  • Weymouth, Littlemoor and Portland: 5 part time vacancies
  • Dorchester and Crossways: 4 part time vacancies
  • Wimborne, Lytchett Matravers and Upton: 4 part time vacancies
  • Gillingham, Shaftesbury and Sherborne: 4 part time vacancies
  • Bridport and Lyme Regis: 3 part time vacancies
Swanage library new opening hours

The new hours from Monday 1st July 2024

Reduced hours on a Saturday

From Monday 1st July 2024, Swanage library will be open for three hours instead of six and a half hours on a Saturday. Late opening will now be 6 pm instead of 6.30 pm. However it will still remain open for 30 hours a week, with the library now open on Tuesdays.

Dorset Council says that the new “efficient operating model” will result in a reduction of one hour of opening hours across the 23 Dorset Council managed libraries.

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said:

“As part of library strategy development, we asked our communities when they wanted our libraries to be open. Based on community feedback and identified community needs, we’ve updated our library opening hours. These new hours were published in July 2023 and will launch next month.”

However the results of the library consultation published by Dorset Council show that more people wanted Swanage library open on a Saturday (225) than a Tuesday (148), so it’s a surprise that the hours are being reduced on a Saturday and the library will now open on a Tuesday.

The Swanage top three most mentioned comments in the consultation were:

  • More/better opening hours, not less
  • Evening opening hours
  • More weekend opening hours
Swanage library

Swanage library users told the Dorset Council consultation that they wanted evening and weekend opening hours

Petition to restore Saturday opening hours

Swanage town councillor Cliff Sutton has launched a petition calling for Dorset Council to reinstate the Saturday opening hours, which has already attracted more than 100 signatures. He said:

“Saturdays are vital because they allow children and young people to visit the library. This is not only for books, but as a place to do research, study quietly and use the computers.

“This is especially true in Swanage where many of our teenage children have to travel long distances to attend schools and colleges.

“The cut in Saturday hours will reduce the time available for the fantastic educational activities targeted at children and young people that have previously been delivered by our kind and experienced library staff.

“By reducing the hours available for young people, Dorset Council are disproportionally disadvantaging those least able to improve their circumstances.

“The recent consultation concluded that young people and the employed wanted Saturday and late night opening. There was no demand to open on a Tuesday instead of Saturday. As this change is cost neutral, it should have no impact on budgets.

“Well educated and informed young people are not only our legacy, they will provide the future economic growth Dorset so desperately needs.”

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Despite being surrounded by beauty, Swanage has areas of deprivation with housing, food and energy costs outstripping local wages

Area of high need

Dorset Council’s own analysis of the Swanage library catchment indicates it is an area of high need across a range of indicators, particularly in the areas of deprivation, health and digital exclusion.

The Dorset Council spokesperson said:

“This evidence supported Swanage’s classification as a Library Plus, maintaining its opening hours of 30 hours per week.

“However, in recognition of the need to extend our availability to customers and non-library users, as evidenced through need, our new opening times see us open five days a week. An increase upon its current four day a week opening pattern.

“Within our new opening hours, we have preserved Saturday morning opening, which ensures the entire current programme of Saturday events will continue uninterrupted.

“It also preserves our opening hours with the highest hourly visitor rate. Based on a snapshot data collection exercise, our highest hourly visitor rate on a Saturday occurred at 11 am (57) and 12 noon (43).

“We have retained one late night opening per week at Swanage; the library will now be open until 6 pm on a Wednesday.”

Have your say to help shape the future of local libraries

Swanage library at the heart of our community

“Very sad loss to the library and the community”

Swanage Library Friends posted on social media:

“As many of you know, we will shortly be losing five skilled and experienced staff due to redundancies.

“I would like to thank Jo (library manager), Liz (library assistant), Penny (library assistant), Andrea (relief librarian) and Julia (relief librarian).

“Between them they have clocked up nearly 60 years working at Swanage library, it will be a very sad loss to the library and the community.”

Further information

  • Dorset Council library consultation results (page 184 for Swanage library data)
  • Dorset Council meeting on library strategy
  • Dorset Council library service strategic needs assessment
  • Petition: Restore Swanage library Saturday opening times

Full statement from Dorset Council

“Over the course of 18 months, through our Lets Talk Libraries campaign, we consulted and collaborated with our customers, communities, employees and partners to develop a new Library Strategy, which was adopted and published in July 2023.

“The strategy outlines the library service’s contribution to Dorset and how we will support individuals and communities to be more connected, empowered and improve life chances. With a mission to inspire, connect and enable our communities through our services.

“As part of library strategy development, we asked our communities when they wanted our libraries to be open. Based on community feedback and identified community needs, we’ve updated our library opening hours. These new hours were published in July 2023 and will launch next month.

“Analysis of community need within the Swanage Library catchment is available to view in the Strategic Needs Assessment. Swanage Library Catchment presents as an area of high need across a range of indicators, particularly in the areas of deprivation, health and digital exclusion.

“These indicators have been chosen as they help to identify community need to access services which improve health & wellbeing, literacy, learning, digital skills and employability. These are all services which libraries can help provide in order to improve outcomes for our communities.

“This evidence supported Swanage’s classification as a Library Plus, maintaining its opening hours of 30 hours per week. However, in recognition of the need to extend our availability to customers and non-library users, as evidenced through need, our new opening times see us open 5 days a week. An increase upon its current 4 day a week opening pattern.

“Within our new opening hours, we have preserved Saturday morning opening, which ensures the entire current programme of Saturday events will continue un-interrupted. It also preserves our opening hours with the highest hourly visitor rate. Based on a snapshot data collection exercise, our highest hourly visitor rate on a Saturday occurred at 11:00 (57) and 12:00 (43).

“We have retained one late night opening per week at Swanage; the library will now be open until 6 pm on a Wednesday. This is designed to complement Wareham’s late-night opening on a Tuesday evening. Ensuring a range of late-night provision in the geographical area of Purbeck, supporting working people to get to the library.

“Visitor numbers 6 pm to 6.30 pm were low at Swanage (12) and, so we moved these to support the new full day opening on a Tuesday, where we can support the broadest range of needs.

“From Monday 1st July, Swanage library will be open for an additional day in the week. It will now be open 10 am to 5 pm on Tuesday, whereas it used to be closed. These new opening hours allows us to meet the needs of the broadest range of customers- pre-school children and their carers, retirees, those who do not work, digitally excluded residents, including job seekers and students, and after-school time for school age children.

“We look forward to designing a programme of events tailored to the needs of Swanage community on the Tuesday, seeing an expansion of our service offer to the Swanage community.

“Additionally, all customers in Swanage have a Libraries West membership which allow them access to all of Libraries West services including our online e-resources and physical items across the whole of Dorset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole network and beyond into Somerset and Bristol.

“With regard to the points on cost, I can confirm our new operating model is cost neutral and has been achieved within our existing service budget.

“All employees within the library service have had the opportunity, and were actively encouraged to, apply for permanent roles within the new structure. Full support was put in place for those who personally chose not to continue in service.”

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