STAFFED libraries which are accessible and welcoming with reading cafes and flexible study spaces are at the heart of plans for York’s future service.

The city council has published its “needs assessment” for libraries in the city, after a long consultation including surveys and focus groups about what York people want from the service.

That assessment is due to be discussed by a leisure and culture committee next week, and papers published ahead of that meeting reveal some of the plans.

A survey of library users in 2016 shows that although people value libraries as calm and welcoming spaces, “their enjoyment of the spaces is reduced when they are noisy, smelly, or intimidating, and there were some requests to improve the exteriors of the buildings, so there are mixed feelings about the quality of the current spaces.”

The documents go on to say that while Tang Hall library is due to move into a new home on the redeveloped Burnholme site, Acomb’s library has been so successful that it could benefit from enlargement, and Clifton too could be in line for a replacement or upgraded library.

At the same time, research shows that Rowntree Park’s reading cafe is the most visited library in York after the city centre York Explore, and council bosses want as many libraries as possible to host reading cafes in future.

The new network of libraries should include the main York Explore in the city centre, large Explore Library Learning Centres in places like Acomb, Burnholme and Clifton with extra facilities like community rooms, smaller libraries and reading cafes. The mutual organisation Explore was set up in 2014 to run the city’s library and archives services.

Its initial five year contract is due to expire next spring, so the assessment of need will form part of plans for a new contract for the service.

Explore York run the city's current library service, and bosses there have confirmed they will be bidding to continue doing so under the new tender.

Chief executive Fiona Williams said: "We will be bidding for the new contract.  We believe very strongly in the council’s vision for our library service. We weave learning into every part of what we do and we have an exciting, positive plan for the next 20 years."