Diversifying Services in Community Libraries

Diversifying Services in Community Libraries

Alongside core library lending and information services, many libraries provide a range of complementary services and activities. There is scope for community managed libraries to expand or develop related services.

Examples could include:

  • Advice and guidance to users to develop their tastes and skills and help them access new materials.
  • Storytelling sessions.
  • Book clubs.
  • Research support, and ICT assistance.
  • Developing specialist displays or collections to engage with the community.
  • Translating information resources into locally spoken languages.

These services add value to the transaction of borrowing a book (or other material).

Co-location of Community Services

One of the biggest opportunities for community managed libraries is the potential to develop services that integrate with, and compliment library services. Co-location of services can be a key to achieving a sustainable model for community managed libraries. This creates the ability to share costs and multiply impact through interrelationships with other services. The simplest of these arrangements being that of sharing the same workspace so that overhead costs can be shared e.g:

  • Reception.
  • Most back-office staffing.
  • ICT infrastructure & systems.
  • Heat and light and other facilities.
  • Building maintenance costs.
  • Promotion and stakeholder engagement.
  • Fund-raising.

This approach will help host organisations to be more effective and efficient.  New income streams may be developed by combining these services with some more enterprising activities that also benefit from developing a critical mass of services in a single location. 

Organisation should to consider if your proposed services could be hosted by existing community anchor organisations, or if the library buildling could be transformed into a new community anchor hosting a range of community services.

Community Services that may be co-located, or developed alongside a community library may include:

  • Advice and information services.
  • Informal or Formal education activities.
  • Children and Young people activities.
  • Credit Union services.

Such services may be delivered by community enterprises delivering library services, or alternatively, space can be sub let to other community providers and public agencies to deliver complimentary services.

Libraries can be centres for education, support and social action. Such provision could be designed from the outset or supported to evolve.  Community Organisations should consider how they might prepare for the evolution and development of services and related demands. In the first instance you could simply consider what other services might benefit from a using the library counter such as time-banks or a more formal advice service. Think about which services or types of activity might help you achieve your objectives and those that might detract.

Commercial Services

Alongside community activities, community organisations should consider the potential of supporting or developing commercial services as income earning activities.

Although there is likely to need to be an element of enterprise running throughout every aspect of your library these services are those that are explicitly operating to make financial contribution to your wider running costs?

Commercial Services might have a tangential relationship with the library service such as information professional services; or they may have very little to do with the service but add something to the building.

Examples might include:

  • a café
  • meeting space for hire.
  • Hotdesking workspace
  • Ancilliary trading, e.g.
    • Photocopying / Printing
    • Book Sales
    • Computer Hire
    • Stationary
    • Vending
    • Local donated goods

Although unlikely to be the main priority for a community organisation, consideration of such activities could make the difference between a viable sustainable community library and one that is constantly struggling to make ends meet. 

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