In late 2019, C.Co was commissioned to carry out a comprehensive consultation with users and non-users of the Northumberland County Council (NCC) library service to help inform the future strategy for delivering the NCC library service. The key objectives of the consultation were to:
- Identify the key strengths and weaknesses of the service
- Establish the views of residents and staff on the proposed changes to service delivery
- Understand the degree to which local communities would be interested in actively helping to run the service.
The consultation involved a variety of different approaches. In the first phase of the consultation, a self-completion survey was designed in collaboration with NCC and delivered to residents via online and paper methods.
Initially, the plan for the second phase of the consultation was to hold a programme of face-to-face workshops. However, the impact of Covid-19, and subsequent cancellation of all face-to-face engagement, prompted the team to employ different remote consultation methods. Self-completion booklets were sent out to all staff and selected stakeholders and in-depth interviews were conducted via telephone with a cross-section of residents.
It was important to ensure that these remote methods of engagement would not lose the ability to ‘dig deeper’ and gather rich and useful insights, something that is often easier to achieve through face-to-face engagement. As such, all remote methods were designed to include a variety of creative activities such as projective or enabling techniques, designed to both engage participants and to tap into participants’ deeper motivations and attitudes.
The response to the consultation from both residents and staff exceeded all initial expectations, with over 5,000 residents completing the consultation survey and staff members sharing their views on the future of their library service. In addition, the request for residents to participate in telephone interviews was met with an incredibly positive response, with the first agreement to take part being received before all invites had even been sent out.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19 the consultation met its intended timescales and was delivered within budget.
The successful consultation prompted an article in the Municipal Journal https://www.themj.co.uk/Now-the-clapping-has-stopped-the-listening-needs-to-start/217924