A PUBLIC exercise to help shape the future of Dorset libraries has highlighted the importance of the service.

More than 7,500 people responded after Dorset Council launched an 11-week public consultation to inform how they develop and deliver the library service in the future.

The consultation did not include any proposals for change, but sought the views of library users and non-users, partners, businesses, and employees to understand how the service could better meet the needs of people.

Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer and Community Services, said: “Our current library strategy is 11 years old and so much has changed over those 11 years, but Dorset’s libraries have remained at the heart of our communities. It was important that we heard from as many people as possible and I am really pleased that we received over 7,500 responses. Thank you to everyone who had their say. This first phase of consultation is taking us one step closer to providing a more customer focussed and modern service."

She added: "Your responses have helped us shape our new draft strategy which will go to public consultation this summer. We look forward to hearing your views again in a few months. In the meantime please come and visit our libraries and experience all that they have offer - there really is something for everyone."

In the consultation, younger people said they would like to see more clubs in the library as well as arts and crafts sessions and board games.

Those over 16 wanted a better range of stock and suggested a coffee shop.

Responses from businesses and partners showed a need for community spaces, hot-desking and co-working spaces, and the ability for organisations to use libraries to run clinics or groups to support communities with health, wellbeing, and safety.

You can read the survey summary reports in more detail on the Dorset Council website.

A summary report is also available which draws on all the engagement activity undertaken during phase one consultation to inform the library strategy. The report includes four areas of focus which the draft strategy will take into account. Printed copies of each report will be available for review at libraries.

The draft strategy will go to the Joint Overview Committee next month.