Changing traditional libraries into ‘integrated facilities’ three years ago has increased footfall by 18 per cent.
This welcome news was given to elected members at the Wigtown Area Committee monthly meeting in Stranraer on Wednesday, but Wigtown West Councillor Grahame Forster commented that although library attendance had gone up in Stranraer, there was no way of knowing why those going through the doors were there, since customer services, registration and libraries were combined.
“This is not a true reading. They are not all there to get books”, he argued.
But a report to the councillors showed that membership of the library service had increased by nine per cent to a total of 14,176.
The Bookbug sessions set up for babies and toddlers in the area have been well supported with 1308 attending the sessions. Computer sessions, including structured classes, formal study, research and informal surfing saw 210 classes offered in Wigtownshire to March 2016, attracting 1149 learners. There were 75 one-to-one or blended learner sessions.
Awards were made to The Whithorn Trust, who received £1700 towards their Iron Age Roundhouse project, and to the Newton Stewart Traditional Music Festival Association who got £3000 to help with the cost of putting on their festival in July. Mid Galloway Councillor Alistair Geddes asked for reports on both events to be brought back to the committee.
Attendances at museums and cultural events also increased by a whopping 34 per cent. This increase was attributed to a number of things, including the early Easter, which bumped the half-yearly figures up; the well attended ‘living history’ events staged at the Castle of St John in Stranraer and the high number of visitors in October 2015 to the Wigtown Book Festival.
Leisure and Sport also saw a welcome increase in participation number in the past year. Overall swimming pool attendances are up 12 per cent. The exception being the Merrick Leisure Centre where attendances are down slightly, three per cent, due to a decrease in curriculum swimming. People attending sports facilities in Wigtownshire shot up by 23 per cent.
Councillor Jim McColm praised officers for rolling out the Merrick Leisure Centre fitness classes to Wigtown and Kirkcowan, adding that this was “a useful development” resulting in more community facilities getting used.
Attendance at meetings of the Machars Sports Hub were declining and new ways or regenerating interest were being examined. Although the clubs continue to communicate between themselves.