Agenda item

Hillingdon's Library Service's Draft Strategy 2023-2027 / The Future of Harlington Library


Darren Deeks, Libraries Service Manager, and Councillor Eddie Lavery, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, were in attendance to respond to questions from the Committee in relation to the Library Service Draft Strategy 2023-2027 and the Future of Harlington Library.


Members sought clarification as to why residents were not using libraries as much as they had pre-pandemic. The Libraries Service Manager indicated that usage figures were improving; however, pre-pandemic levels had not yet been reached. It appeared that people’s habits were changing, and this could be attributed to a number of factors such as flexible working, the reluctance of some older people to mix with others and limits on capacity for safety reasons. Hillingdon was performing well compared to other London boroughs.


The Committee noted that, as indicated on page 85 of the agenda pack at item 4, three Hillingdon libraries had lower active membership than Harlington Library. It was confirmed that Harlington Library had been sited in the school for over a decade which restricted its use as it did not feel like a public library.


With regards to the tiered grading system, Councillor Lavery advised the Committee that the tiers were based on usage and visit numbers. Flagship libraries had a large footfall and were well used while smaller libraries tended to serve the local community. It was important for the Council to maintain coverage across the Borough. Footfall would be monitored on an ongoing basis to inform decisions. Harlington Library was the only proposed closure due to its own particular circumstances whereby it was predominantly only used by school children.


In response to further questions from the Committee, it was confirmed that satisfaction levels were generally high. A library home service was available for those who needed it. Councillor Lavery confirmed that libraries were tailored to the requirements of local areas and facilities offered were driven by demand; for example, computers were heavily used by young people in Botwell. Officers were looking to expand the offer for young people to include sign language and other activities of interest.


In respect of seasonality of study, Members enquired whether hours of operation would reflect this. It was confirmed that Hillingdon strove for consistency across the Borough to ensure level access on a daily basis. Residents were generally happy to accept lunch time closures which also enabled students to take a break from their studies. 


Councillor Lavery informed the Committee Members that libraries were an essential part of community hubs. The Council was looking at ways to make best use of all its assets across the Borough and considering all options including locating banking and police surgeries within libraries. Members heard that a pilot was underway regarding HSBC in Eastcote Library and Barclays at Ruislip Manor library was under consideration. Ways in which the Adolescent Team could use libraries was also being explored.


In terms of the digital offer, the Committee was advised that there had been an increase in the use of Borrow Box, but the range of books was limited compared to the range of physical books available to borrow. Press Reader had successfully replaced newspapers and magazines.


It was acknowledged that additional activities available within libraries could be better publicised in one place to make it easier for residents to access the information.


At the request of Members, it was agreed that the Libraries Service Manager would explore the possibility of libraries being used as designated safe spaces.


The Libraries Service Manager affirmed that the consultation periods on both strategies would close on Sunday 16 April 2023. 753 responses had been received regarding the main strategy and 78 regarding Harlington Library thus far.




1.    The Libraries Service Manager explore the possibility of libraries being used as designated safe spaces; and

2.    That the content of the report be noted.

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