The Future of Libraries – Get engaged

Today’s guest blog is from Deputy Mayor Councillor Asher Craig (Communities, Equalities & Public Health).

Have you got ideas or suggestions for your library and its building? Can you help make these ideas happen?

Last July the Mayor and Cabinet decided to keep all 27 libraries open and pledged to hold a series of community events to bring together local people and organisations to identify opportunities for community led activities and partnerships that will create a library service for the future.

We want to let people know how they can get involved and how the library team is going to be working alongside residents and organisations to come up with solutions for extending the service and the use of the buildings, while also looking at the wider needs of the local community.

These meetings will offer an opportunity for collaboration and will consider the support needed – both financial and practical – to take ideas forward that will become pilot projects.

We want people to come to these events with suggestions and ideas – small ideas that could be developed quickly, and bigger ideas that make a significant difference to how a library service is provided in the future. This is not about saving money, it is about the community finding sustainable solutions and working with us to deliver them.

It is a busy time for libraries. While the community events are taking place, the council is developing a library strategy to help modernise the service and take it forward. The strategy will propose the following areas of priority: reading and learning, digital inclusion and access, extended access and Knowledge Hubs. The strategy will align with the proposed community engagement events which will look in detail at local ideas and solutions for each library.

Libraries continue to provide key services for local communities, but what residents want from them is changing, and the service needs to change with this. We want to hear from community organisations, current and potential library users, businesses and councillors. The idea is that we work together to find the best possible solutions. We are looking for people to come forward with workable ideas for their local library – we are open to discussing new ideas and are keen not to stand in people’s way. This will be different in each area as it needs to be targeted to what that local community wants and needs. We understand that there is no one-size fits all approach.

For those that cannot attend an event there will be an online ideas form where people can share suggestions.

To find out more about the community events or take part in the survey please visit:


Rose Green Centre, 65 Gordon Road, BS5 7DR

  • Tuesday 29 January 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 29 January 7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Hillfields, Fishponds, St. George, Junction 3

Withywood Community Centre, Queen’s Road, BS13 8QA

  • Monday 4 February  10am-12noon
  • Thursday 7 February  7-9pm

Libraries being discussed: Bishopsworth, Hartcliffe, Whitchurch

City Hall, College Green, BS1 5TR

  • Tuesday 12 February 10am-12noon
  • Tuesday 12 February 6-8pm

Libraries being discussed: Central, Clifton, Redland, Bishopston, St Pauls

The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Knowle, BS4 1DQ

  • Tuesday 26 February 10am-12noon
  • Saturday 2 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Wick Road, Knowle, Stockwood, Filwood, Marksbury Road, Bedminster

Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road, Southmead, BS10 5PY

  • Wednesday 6 March 10am-12noon 
  • Saturday 9 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Southmead, Westbury, Henleaze, Horfield, Lockleaze

Shirehampton Public Hall, Station Road, BS11 9TX

  • Monday 11 March 7-9pm
  • Wednesday 13 March 10am-12noon

Libraries being discussed: Henbury, Shirehampton, Avonmouth, Sea Mills

The Lunch Club

Last November Bristol was accepted as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Network of Age Friendly Communities. This is thanks to the work of the Bristol Ageing Better partnership, the council and so many older Bristolians who have been involved as well as the lead of my cabinet colleague Helen Holland.  This global network represents cities and communities across the world who are all committed to making their areas better and more inclusive for older people, which also has a positive impact on the community as a whole.

Bristol’s membership is a statement of our commitment to enable older people to feel safe, enjoy good health and continue to participate fully in society. Figures show there are between 6,300 and 11,400 older people who are socially isolated in Bristol. By working together with the Bristol Ageing Better partnership and our city partners, I want to tackle this and ensure our city becomes a better place for everyone to grow old in.

This ambition will require us to become a more closely connected society where people work together and support one another. I saw a great example of this in action when I visited Avonmouth Community Centre yesterday to attend their weekly lunch club.  I had the opportunity to meet a range of volunteers and staff and to see how this weekly meet up enabled local citizens to not only enjoy a hot meal but also served as an opportunity for the community to get together.

Many people experience the isolation of loneliness at some point in their lives so I welcome the news that several organisations based within the city region have received funding from the government’s Building Connections Fund – the first ever fund dedicated to reducing loneliness – targeting people from all age groups and backgrounds.  It is only by supporting a wide range of partners, organisations and citizens that we can collectively solve some of the challenges of growing an inclusive city, challenges such as social isolation. This ambition is further reflected in our One City Approach and our drive to work better together and deliver real improvements which people can see and feel.  

For the first time, our upcoming joined-up action plan across the public, private, voluntary and academic sectors will look to use the collective power of the city’s key organisations to make a bigger impact for those who feel less connected within our society. I look forward to working with our partners as Bristol moves forward to becoming increasingly a city for all.

Best in Class: Small Business Friendly Council

2018 was a big year for delivery: on housing, became living wage accredited and maintained our children’s centre service and libraries which was capped off with us being named alongside Leeds and Glasgow as one of the three new homes for Channel 4.

Today got off to a good start. I had the honour of being visited by the Federation of Small Business (FSB) who presented us with the “Best in Class: Best Overall Small Business Friendly Council” in the “Local Authority Small Business Friendly” Awards 2018.

This was the first year of what is intended to be an annual series of awards for Local Authorities by the Federation of Small Business.

Our pitch presented our business facing service teams in their entirety, from Economic Development, Employment, Skills and Learning to Business Rates, Commissioning and Procurement. We recognise that small businesses aren’t merely simply businesses but can be at the heart of communities and families, central to local economies and pathways to employment and prosperity for people otherwise locked out of economic opportunity.

In our pitch we had highlighted our commitment to social value in our contracts. This fit well with our ongoing work with the FSB and Small Medium Size Enterprises who are key partners in delivering inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

For those you with an interest it’s worth noting our refreshed Social Value Policy is going to Cabinet on the 22 January. The main revisions of the policy seek to increase the Social Value weighting in tenders to 20% as a standalone value, alongside the traditional price/quality split, and a spend target of 40% with micro, small, medium sized businesses and organisations, and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors.

The FSB itself said “Bristol City Council has invested significant resource to support SMEs to grow through a variety of projects including helping SMEs to access apprenticeship funding, providing financial support for a number of business groups, actively engaging with almost 2000 high street companies through its Business Improvement District programme and, at a challenging time for skills, providing regular Jobs Fairs and delivering sector-focused training in partnership with employers.

[Bristol] has also gone out of its way to help with business rates relief – offering £1m up front to the businesses they knew who were entitled to it rather than making each business submit an application. It has also recognised an issue the FSB takes very seriously by setting a policy of paying all their contractors for all good and services within 30 days of invoice as well as offering support to SMEs by showing them how the Social Value Act can aid them in their procurement ambitions. And it has also recently unveiled an Equality Charter to establish a positive culture of diversity in the workplace.”

Being recognised for our practical commitment to small businesses in the city is a great way to start the year. And its work that will remain committed to as our business continue to face the economic uncertainties of Brexit and challenges to high streets.