Community Managed Libraries
The future of the public library service is at a crossroads.
In August 2011 it was reported that 1% of public library services were delivered by community organisations (29 in total). In recent months this position has shifted significantly and there are not well over 100 already in operation.
A range of factors are influencing an increase in community provision including: policy supporting greater community control and delivery of services, increasing pressure on local authority budgets, and downward trends in usage of many libraries.
We believe that library services and buildlings play a vitally important role at the very heart of our communities, and that ‘doing nothing’ would come at a considerable cost. However, documented good practice and specialist support for those taking their first steps towards development of a community managed library service is in short supply.
Locality is keen to work with prospective as well as existing community enterprises to evolve high quality community-led library services through the development its first Community Knowledge Hub network.
Existing community managed libraries demonstrate that benefits can include:
• Reduced running costs for local authorities
• Increased community involvement in and control over local services
• Increased take-up of library services
• Library service innovation and diversification
• Improved access to a range of public services
It should be noted that these benefits are not a given and the success and sustainability of any community library is dependent on a wide range of factors. When it comes to realising these benefits, we firmly believe that there is ‘strength in numbers’. Working together, community enterprises can benefit from peer learning and support, collaborative approaches to community asset management and service delivery, access to social impact investment, as well as innovation to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes from community-managed library services.