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Surrey Performing Arts Library consultation

December 2017 update

Surrey Performing Arts Library (SPAL), which is part of Surrey County Council’s library service, is in the middle of a review due to a budget cut of £180,000 which takes effect from 1 April 2018.

The first part of the process was to ask active users of SPAL how they use the service and what their views were on a number of options. We would like to thank all those who took part in the user survey. A total of 1,475 people gave us their views, the majority of whom were involved in music performance.

The response to the survey formed a part of a report which, on 7 November 2017, was considered by Surrey County Council’s Communities Select Committee. The Committee also heard live representations from the Friends of Surrey Performing Arts Library (FOSPAL), Making Music and IAML (the International Association of Music Libraries (UK and Ireland branch)) As a result, the committee has recommended that option 3 (closure of the service) be removed from any future plans. This has been done and so a music/drama service will continue in some form whilst still having to make the required saving.

The remaining options are being more fully investigated.

Option 2: The committee asked, as a priority, that a forum be established to investigate the viability of finding an organisation willing to take over the running of the service so that it is wholly independent of Surrey County Council with the proviso that it remain a public lending service. The forum has been created and consists of the library service, FOSPAL, Making Music and IAML. The resulting organisation could be a charity newly formed specifically for the purpose or an existing organisation wishing to expand its activities. As starting points, FOSPAL, Making Music and IAML have jointly started the process of registering a Charitable Incorporated Organisation which could be taken on by a group of trustees. At the same time, the library service is currently in negotiation with an interested party.

Option 1: keep the music collection as a single collection and move to another Surrey library; do the same with the drama collection, moving to a different Surrey library; intersperse the remaining general stock within the county library stock. The committee has asked for work on this option to be continued in tandem with and as a safety net to Option 2.

The Committee also recommended that–

  • further evaluation work take place in relation to costing a new IT system better suited to the specific needs of a performing arts library such as the system currently in use in Nottingham;
  • the Library Service carry out further analysis of the current Inter Library Loan systems and propose a range of changes which would improve the financial viability of the performing arts aspect of the ILL service and also evaluate the impact of withdrawing from the system;
  • the service produce and implement a range of revised pricing for SPAL services which can be implemented in shorter and longer timescale;
  • officers review staffing costs to secure immediate savings and to investigate the use of volunteers;
  • officers report back to the Communities Select Committee at its meeting on 8 February including up to date budget figures to highlight progress on the recommendations and to develop recommendations for the (full Cabinet) March meeting.

Select Committees of the council provide guidance for policy development, look critically at the performance of services, monitor risk and finance. Their recommendations help develop the proposals which go forward to the full Cabinet meeting for decision.

We will be inviting survey respondents who expressed an interest in working with us to see SPAL as an independent organisation to share their ideas further to help the next stage which will be a second report for the 8 February 2018 Communities Select Committee meeting.

The full papers for the 7 November meeting can be found on the Surrey County Council website.

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