Oswestry library - An Open Letter to Shropshire Council
25th May 2012
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An Open Letter to Shropshire Council

The new display of the plans for a service hub in Oswestry Library foyer has recently gone up along with a request for feedback. This letter is the first of such feedback and will also be emailed to Customer Services at Shropshire Council too.

Assuming that Shropshire Council are doing the very best they can with the resources they have and are looking to save money in the short term and prepare for NEWCOLAND in the medium term and protect library and council services for the future...

If this is accepted as their stated position, then the council need to know, as far as can be ascertained, that the proposed changes to Oswestry Library and the introduction of a "service hub" won't adversely affect customers of the library and the council offices.

Especially, in ways that may lead to further costs down the line.

A Community Impact Assessment on these proposals would, at least, provide some clarity on the way forward.

It is suggested that the council also consider the possibility of utilising the 5 rooms that have stood empty, yet heated, for 4 years in what was the old library building.  Especially, since the council have already stated that one of their key reasons for the proposal is lack of space in the council offices - and also presumably, to make better use of resources.

Now clearly, turning the old staircase access to the library rooms into a server room has made this possibility more problematic.  That said,  access could be re-established which would achieve the council's stated aims of having more space for a council service hub whilst being connected to the library yet maintaining the integrity of the library for children and adults alike.

With respect to children’s use of the library, a security camera has recently been installed into the library foyer.  Will a police line follow?  This surely makes sense as the risk assessment of the council offices is imported into the public library foyer.  But how does this chime with the foyer being designed as a safe and secure environment for children who are amongst the most frequent of library customers?

Another concern is the depth of service provided at the council offices as such transactions are “channel migrated” onto online council services.  Certainly, after a transaction analysis of the council offices work is undertaken, there may be certain transactions which are discrete and frequent - ideally suited to a well-designed online service and is to be encouraged. 

But what about those transactions which are complex and in-frequent?  This requires experienced customer-facing staff in a private context in which an issue can be dealt with respectfully.  The service hub is planned to have a private interview room, but what will happen when this is busy?  Where will people queue?  How will people queue and know who is next?

Have the council conducted a thorough analysis of the spectrum of transactions and how each will be catered for?  Have they done the scenario planning so that when complex and stressful transactions occur in busy periods, the service has the capacity to cope?  What are the risks here?

It is hoped that the council has done the work to think through what these changes mean to every section of the customer base.

The council’s service hub approach is an old one; it was adopted by banks around 20 years ago.  The commercial aim being to reduce demand on customer-facing services by providing a much poorer service in order to drive  some of that demand online.  Though they found, that some of it (unresolved) just “disperses” into unforeseen effects and costs.

It would be good to know that the council are open to new ideas.  If we are all in this together, then no-one has a monopoly on the best ideas, and maybe, just maybe, a way forward can be found which strengthens the library, maintains excellent council customer-facing services, phases transactions onto online services and continues to cut costs while providing resources in a better way.
Once the Community Impact Assessment has been completed, the council will have a better grasp of the social and systemic issues to be resolved.

These suggestions are intended to support the council in that effort.

About the Author

John W

Member since: 10th July 2012

A quick introduction - I'm John Waine, Director of TheBestOfOswestry. Having lived in this beautiful area for around 20 years now, I have decided to stay. :)

With kind thanks

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