Enabling Enterprise in Libraries research report

Enabling Enterprise in Libraries research report

Posted by Anton Schultz  |  24th Apr 2014
Locality is working with Arts Council England to explore existing good practice and assess the potential to further enable enterprise amongst library service providers.

The project seeks to support commissioners and providers to intensify or widen their area of operations in an enterprising way – without losing or compromising their ethos and core objectives – to generate income to invest in library service enhancement, as well as to improve the overall resilience and sustainability of library services.

To date, this has involved a rapid research and co-design phase to identify and understand the types of enterprising activities that libraries already undertake or, indeed, could undertake to generate additional income. This has helped partners to better understand how the opportunities for additional income generation we identified might be capitalised upon, and what additional support may be required in future, and we are very grateful to all who contributed to the exercise.

We hope that the findings of this initial research and co-production phase are of interest to key stakeholders, library authorities and local community organisations seeking to develop high quality library services, albeit in the face of significant budget constraints.

Looking ahead, we anticipate developing a guidance note for library leaders – both to share the learning we’ve amassed and to offer a steer where library leaders have identified potential issues.


See the report here:

Summary findings

Our work points to the potential for public libraries to realise an increase in the income they generate because:

  • There is growing acceptance of ‘Enterprising Councils’, and an entrepreneurial culture underpins social and community enterprise libraries, although the same cannot be said of all volunteer-led libraries
  • Whilst overall income from ‘traditional’ services in public libraries continues to decline, it holds up well on a ‘per user’ basis – such that some of the decline might be arrested or, even, reversed were library visitor numbers to increase overall. Notably, recent data from the U.S. points to the potential to increase visitor numbers significantly (in particular, where New/Emergent ICT services are introduced to appeal to a broad library user base)
  • Active borrowers visiting public libraries are currently contributing an average £4.60/annum, which is considered a ‘low base’ upon which to build new income generating services, notwithstanding the need to target them towards more affluent groups
  • Library services continue to benefit from prime physical locations, as well as the capability for out-reach to more isolated communities, and are increasingly accepted as ‘hubs of the community’ offering a broader range of services than was the case in the past. We would therefore anticipate positive engagement on the part of public sector commissioners in response to considered approaches
  • Whilst there are challenges surrounding the capacity and skills of employees/volunteers who might be tasked with the design and delivery of income generating activities, development of the same is cited as a priority for future action in Arts Council England’s response to Envisioning the Library of the Future


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Enabling enterprise in libraries

The project will involve research to identify and understand the types of ...