Merton Gets A Share Of Library Funding

Local libraries also win awards

Merton Council has been given a share of £20,000 to deliver an arts activities project in libraries which will help certain target groups, including those with learning difficulties and children.

The funding, awarded by Arts Council England and the Local Government Association (LGA), should enable Merton's library service to further improve the quality and delivery of arts in libraries for local residents.

It is getting the money as part of a partnership with the library and arts services of Richmond, Kingston upon Thames and Wandsworth Borough Councils.

The successful project is one of 13 recognised under the Libraries' Development Initiative (LDI). This will pilot opportunities for libraries to enrich the way people experience arts and culture, while the four councils will share their resources and learning in this area. 

The project Merton is participating in was selected by the Arts Council England for its innovative approach to library services in commissioning arts activities.

Merton cabinet member for community and culture, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: "This funding will enable us to offer an even wider and more exciting range of activities and allow our library users to profit from even more of the benefits and services available. Our libraries offer an extensive programme of events and form a very important part of the community."

Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey said: "The successful projects all show a really forward-looking approach. They’re imaginative, ambitious and will be immensely helpful in demonstrating to the wider sector the important role the public library can play in our 21st century cultural life."

And Merton's library service came top in the UK at the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards. Councillor Whelton, along with the council's head of library services Anthony Hopkins, were presented for the award for Efficiency on Wednesday March 14.
In presenting the award, the LGC recognises the borough's successful work with volunteers and partner organisations, extending library opening times and broadening the services Merton’s libraries offer. Also praised was the council’s use of new self-service technology to benefit library users.

Along with increased customer satisfaction, the award also recognised the efficiency of the service, including the 40% savings which have been made over the last five years.

Councillor Whelton, said: "We are very proud of our library services, and it is great to get the recognition of all our achievements in this area – especially as ours was the only library service in the UK to win an award. We know the value of a good library service to our residents.

"Our army of over 450 volunteers is the biggest of its kind in any London borough, contributing over 17,600 hours of their valuable time since last April to helping provide this fantastic service. This award is largely attributable to the hard work of our library staff who have embraced change and provide excellent customer care."

LGC editor Emma Maier said of the award winners: "It is testament to the spirit, determination and commitment of local government, and the people who work in it, that despite this enormously challenging time, you have continued to innovate and achieve."

Earlier in the week, the borough's library service also won a Team London Award at City Hall for "Building Stronger Neighbourhoods". The award was for best practice in recruitment and retention of volunteers, which has seen more than 400 volunteers contribute their time to a Merton library in the last year.

March 15, 2012