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Trial of 'pop-up' libraries in Norfolk reveals they would cost too much

PUBLISHED: 16:24 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:24 10 January 2019

Mobile libraries have been cut, but 'pop-up' libraries have been deemed too costly to provide similar services. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mobile libraries have been cut, but 'pop-up' libraries have been deemed too costly to provide similar services. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A trial of 'pop-up' libraries concluded they would cost twice as much as mobile libraries to run, but only after councillors had already agreed to mobile library cuts.

Dan Roper, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Dan Roper, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Councillors on Norfolk County Council agreed to £200,000 of cuts to mobile libraries in October, having previously agreed to trials of pop-up libraries.

The cuts mean two of the eight vehicles will be axed and services will no longer calling at 92 of 1,568 stops. They will visit the remaining stops every four weeks.

That was less severe than previous proposals, which would have seen 725 stops removed.

But, when the cuts were made, the council said pop-up libraries could potentially be an alternative. But trials revealed they would not come cheap.

Trials took place in five places - village halls in Tivetshall, Old Buckenham and Bradenham, a church in Shipdham and a heritage centre/cade in Pulham St Mary - over a three week period in October and November.

Each pop-up library stayed for half a day, offering books and activities for children and older people. There were 133 visitors.

The council worked out the cost per visitor was £12.25 - more than double the £5.33 cost per visitor to a mobile library.

Officers said the pop-up libraries were well receieved, although use was low.

They said there was potential to grow an audience but it would need “a significant additional cost” and it “would not be viable to deliver this within existing resources”.

They are recommending councillors agree to only pursue it as part of a “wider corporate agenda” in targeted areas with specific needs.

They also scotched the idea of having libraries in pubs, saying there is not enough evidence to show it would be cost effective.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “The pop up libraries were trialled in five locations and did not have any impact on the findings of our review of mobile libraries, where we made the decision to change the frequency of the mobile library routes, from fortnightly to monthly.”

But Dan Roper, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “The pop up libraries were proposed as a cost effective alternative to mobile libraries without looking at evdience. The opposite is now shown to be the case.”

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