Computer charges in Cambridgeshire libraries sees people using them drop by 75 per cent
PUBLISHED: 13:12 06 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:12 06 September 2018
Charging to use computers in Cambridgeshire libraries after the first 30 minutes has seen a massive drop in the numbers using them.
Overall usage of computers is down 50 per cent but the numbers using them for longer has dropped by 75 per cent since the £1 an hour charge was introduced.
It has meant a dent in council finances too – the council predicted it would make £108,000 in the first year but in the first three months collected just £4,000.
The £85,000 predicted annual shortfall will be one of the items for discussion when the highways and committee infrastructure committee meets on Tuesday.
Councillors will hear that since the introduction of the charge, computer use has fallen by 53 per cent from 40,909 hours to 18,937.
However officers are “confident of closing the remaining gap for future years” once a business development manager is in place.
The charges apply after an initial 30 minutes free but is still free for children up to 18 and those unemployed or on benefits.
The council originally projected that an additional £230,000 per year could be achieved from charges for computers, room and facility lettings and charges for events.
The options were put into place for the library service to meet their budget challenge for 2018-19.
A short-term business development officer post was also sought to focus on marketing and income generation for the service, in order to “help secure the additional income.”
The library service transformation report states: “Indications are that despite a lot of hard work and a number of new initiatives the library service is anticipating the income raised to be £144,580 leaving a gap currently of £85,420.
“Initially the income gap is being addressed by lagging all non-frontline vacant posts, which will cover the shortfall within the current financial year.
“This gap in income is predominantly from the shortfall in predicted income from computer charges.
“Overall, this represents good progress towards the stretching target for additional income, particularly without the assistance of the business development officer post, which we have been unable to successfully appoint to in the first half of the year through two rounds of recruitment.
“We expect to have someone in post later this year.”
Cambridgeshire library service is currently delivered through 33 libraries and three mobile library vehicles, as well as 24/7 online access to e-resources.