City’s mobile library comes to a final halt

Mobile library vans reach the end of the road in Sheffield today (Thursday) after 52 years.

The service is being withdrawn by the council after a 52% drop in the number of customers over the past two years.

The authority says the move reflects changing trends such as the rising demand for IT facilities, which is not available on the vans, and is part of a radical review of library services across the city.

Community groups have stepped forward to operate 15 branch libraries threatened with closure, but there was no interest in taking over the libraries on wheels, which take books to different parts of the city either weekly, fortnightly or monthly.

Council cabinet member Coun Mazher Iqbal said he was delighted all Sheffield’s libraries could stay open. “But there’s no getting away from the fact that massive cuts in government funding have forced some difficult choices in library services, and the mobile library service will be closing.

“We have listened to what the people of Sheffield have told us about when and how they want to use libraries, and, for example, more IT facilities that are not available on the mobile library vans.”

Coun Iqbal said customers would still be able to access a library service, whether it was their closest branch “or the fantastic home library service for people who meet the criteria.

“We have been working closely with all those people who still use the mobile library service over the last month to make sure that they know about the alternatives available to them.”
The jobs of mobile library staff and others are going through voluntary redundancy, early retirement or redeployment, with the council saying it hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies.

Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the saving of the 15 library was not because of the council, but “the amazing community groups that have prepared these plans for local libraries. Countless volunteers have put in an incredible effort to ensure these libraries stay open.”

He added: “Even council staff said that Labour’s original plan would not work, and it was only in the face of our 17,000 strong petition and the ‘Save Sheffield Libraries’ campaign that vital changes were agreed.”