Soho residents soon to have access to more than one million books
By poppy_smith | Sunday, October 07, 2012, 15:22
Residents, workers and students in three London boroughs are set to gain access to more than one million books and a range of specialist collections as their councils launch a 'One Library Card' policy.
Westminster City Council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham Council will launch the 'One Library Card' system on 3 October.
From this date, residents can use their existing library card to borrow books and access a full range of facilities at any of the 21 libraries across the three boroughs. So for example, someone living or working in Westminster will then be able to use their existing Westminster library card to borrow books from Fulham Library (in H&F) or Chelsea Library (in RBKC).
The move means that a one year old, living to the average life expectancy of 81, would need to read at least 26 books every day for the rest of their lives if they wanted to get through the entire tri-borough collection.
To mark the launch of the new system, Hammersmith-based artist Gianandrea Traina has crafted a sculpture made entirely out of books to spell the number '1,000,000' in Victoria Library, reflecting the number of books which will be available to residents across the three boroughs under the new library card system.
The tri-borough councils agreed last year to combine the management of several of their departments, including libraries, to save money and protect frontline services.
The benefits of the new One Library Card do not just stop at borrowing books. Residents, workers and students in the three boroughs will now be able to do all of the following:
· Borrow books, DVDs, CDs and games from any tri-borough library
· Use computers at any library across the three boroughs (there are a total of 470 PCs available for public use)
· Use study facilities in any library
· Benefit from better opening hours – for example, nine libraries open on a Sunday across the three boroughs
· Attend events at any library, including events for babies and children
· Join reading groups or other activity groups at any library
· Access specialist collections across the three boroughs, including some rare items and items of national significance. Collections include the music collection at Victoria Library, fashion collection at Chelsea Library, art and design collection at Westminster Reference Library and a collection of fine art books at Fulham Library.
The One Library Card is the latest way in which the tri-borough arrangement between Westminster, RBKC and H&F is making library services better for residents and offering greater value for council tax payers' money. The innovative programme, which also involves combining management between the councils' children's services, adult social care and pensions and treasury departments, is on track to save £40m a year across the three authorities by 2015/16, enabling the boroughs to keep important services like libraries open for residents.
Commenting on the launch of the One Library Card, Westminster City Council Leader Cllr Philippa Roe said: "We are firmly committed to keeping our libraries open, and the launch of the One Library Card is proof that our tri-borough programme is not only helping to save money and protect our libraries, but it is dramatically improving our existing service.
"The One Library Card effectively unlocks 1 million books, as well as access to specialist books groups and collections, for people who live, work or study in our three boroughs. This is a huge victory for literacy in London and will revolutionise the role our libraries can play in central and west London."
H&F Council Leader Cllr Nicholas Botterill said: "This 'library passport' means that West London residents can now access more free books than they could ever have dreamt of.
"Libraries are a gateway to a world of knowledge, excitement and inspiration. In an age when so many local authorities are lazily closing their branches, we are proving that by thinking innovatively, it is possible to save millions of pounds of taxpayer's money and actually enhance the services our residents receive!"
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Leader, Sir Merrick Cockell, added: "Through tri-borough we will continue to offer excellent library services with a strong focus on innovation and development to meet the current and future needs of our local communities. By combining senior management and working closely with our neighbours we are ensuring that our libraries will continue to thrive at a time when library services in other parts of the capital are under pressure."