EVERY library in the city is set to deliver flagship blind and visually impaired services under new plans that will see the closure of the only dedicated centre in Edinburgh.
The Central Library Resource Centre has been the sole hub for partially sighted users since it opened in 2000 but plummeting numbers have forced a shake-up that will see £60,000 invested in rolling out the service across the Capital.
Last year, less than three per cent of people with sight problems in Edinburgh visited the centre on George IV Bridge – just 102 users.
Now, culture chiefs aim to close the dedicated resource and transfer much of the same specialist technology to 18 libraries by January 2015 and throughout the entire city by that year-end. One-to-one sessions with staff would also be available for those requiring extra support.
The plans have been welcomed by sight loss charity RNIB Scotland. John Legg, director of RNIB Scotland, said reading was a “absolute lifeline” for many blind and partially sighted people.
“For many, travelling to a central library resource can often present difficulties,” he said. “The enormous potential of new technology offers a unique opportunity to provide local access and to extend the take-up of library services.”
Once the service is rolled out the Music and Children’s Library will transfer into the Resource Centre from its former home at 9 George IV Bridge which will be sold.
Councillor Richard Lewis, culture and sport convener, said the city would be “sensitive” to current visitors who may have used the Resource Centre for more than a decade but he insisted that expanding the service across community libraries was “exactly what was needed.”
He said: “For many years it has been the aim of this council to ensure as many blind and partially sighted people as possible are benefiting from the technology available in libraries.
“There are potentially over 3000 Edinburgh residents who are visually impaired and our current service simply doesn’t meet the needs of the majority of these people.
“We’re finally in a position now where we can roll out this specialist software and equipment to more of Edinburgh’s libraries, meaning more children and adults will be able to access the support they need rather than having to travel across the city to the Central Library.
“I completely understand, however, that this change to the service will have an impact on the current users of the Resource Centre and we’ll be working closely with them over this period to engage them in the development of the new service.”
A pilot scheme of six libraries will be up and running by early next year with the service then extended to 18.