£1 an hour for computer use one of new measures from county council to boost public library income by £180,000 a year

March Library: one of 32 libraries across the county to start charging £1 an hour fo computer use. T

March Library: one of 32 libraries across the county to start charging £1 an hour fo computer use. The first 30 minutes though remains free - Credit: Archant

Eighty per cent of those asked for their views on its 32 public libraries in Cambridgeshire thought customers should pay for some services – so the county council has agreed they will.

New measures that could bring in an extra £180,000 a year will include charges for using council computers - £1 per hour for adults after an initial half hour free for all users.

The county’s 120 library staff will ensure use of computers to access Government services remains free – and there will be no charge for under 18s.

There will also be a ‘library extra’ scheme for users who want to contribute financially to the service; members would be invited to such things as ‘premium member’ receptions.

A report by Councillor Paul Raynes of Soham, chairman of a library transformation steering group, said that out of 117 comments received regarding charging, 102 participants at engagement sessions “were positive about the idea of the library service generating income”.

His report emphasised that it was unlikely any one stream of income generation could bring in sufficient revenue to guarantee the future of the library service.

But he argued that a mixed portfolio approach – likely to generate more income and carry less risk – will be essential.

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Initial income generation opportunities that are being considered also include charging for events.

“The library service already organises and delivers events for the local community that people pay to attend, including author talks and arts events,” says his report.

“We want to build upon these to increase the frequency and range of chargeable events.”

There is even a suggestion that donation boxes could be put out and better explanations offered as to how these would be used.

Other ideas include sharing more library buildings with other public sector groups.

A council spokesman said the highways and committee infrastructure committee that approved the report “emphasised these proposals are not a once and for all short-term solution but the start of a transformation process that will continue over time”.

The spokesman added: “Concerns were raised about the introduction of a charge for computer use and it was recognised that the most vulnerable should be protected.”