IN-DEPTH plans for the future of Darlington’s libraries have been detailed ahead of a council meeting.
The closure of the historic Crown Street Library and the £1.7m relocation of many of its resources will usher in a new era for the town’s library services, according to a report from Darlington Borough Council (DBC).
Cabinet members will meet on Thursday, January 17 to approve a raft of contentious recommendations in relation to the town’s libraries.
Papers prepared following two council consultations set out a three-phase plan for library services between 2017 and 2021.
If proposals are approved by council members, Darlington’s mobile library will close, Cockerton Library will be community-run and the town’s central library will be relocated from Crown Street to the Dolphin Centre.
The initial phase of the council’s plans will deliver a host of changes to the leisure centre, including the installation of a lift to serve the Bull Wynd entrance.
Facilities will be introduced including a library designed to help those with autism and dementia and a Quick Picks self-service area.
The authority will also seek external funding for a “transitional arts based programme” focusing on the move between Crown Street and the new facility.
Further funding will be sought to digitize resources at the Centre for Local Studies (CLS), which will operate under reduced opening hours, with the majority of its items to be available only on request by appointment.
Extended open hours for the central library will be introduced in the second phase of the plans, while the home library service will be extended to those in sheltered accommodation and support offered to volunteers running Cockerton Library.
As part of an attempt to “maximise the benefits of co-location”, one membership card will be issued for library and leisure facilities at the Dolphin Centre, with the library working alongside the Move More team “to support learning through dance and sport.”
Volunteers will be sought to help those using ICT facilities and assist with the digitizing of CLS resources.
Work will also be done to encourage those who use the Dolphin Centre to visit the library and to connect the service better with Teesside University.
There are no plans to relocate the art gallery currently running at Crown Street library, but the council plan to “place the library at the heart of the town’s cultural hub” by taking an active role in the development of the arts in Darlington.
The report says the service will “increase the effective partnership with arts and cultural groups, including the Civic Theatre and Head of Steam” and “support local creative businesses through exhibitions and events.”
Members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet are expected to approve the plans and the release of £1.7m needed to relocate the Crown Street service to the Dolphin Centre.
They will also approve proposals to grant a lease and funding of £75,000, over five years, to the Cockerton Library Cooperative and £10,000 for repairs to the windows at Cockerton Library.
However, matters agreed by the cabinet will not be implemented until the full council has the opportunity to debate the proposals, approve the plans and confirm the allocation of the £1.7m relocation costs.