Case study

Community library: Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire

Overview of a community library from the perspective of the community

Farnham Common community library, Buckinghamshire
Farnham Common community library, Buckinghamshire. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

Community library model and governance

Farnham Common community library was established in October 2011 and is one of 19 community partnership libraries in Buckinghamshire that are supported by 10 larger county libraries in areas of high population. The library is run as a charitable trust and forms part of the statutory provision.

Agreement with the local authority / funding

The community group have a 25 year lease for the building at a peppercorn rent and are responsible for the internal maintenance of the building, while the council is responsible for external maintenance. They have a contract with the council to provide a core library service with a minimum number of opening hours. They receive a package which includes:

  • a £5,000 grant towards the running costs
  • book stock
  • access to the Library Management System
  • computers
  • professional support from the community services team leader

The trust also receives rent from the children’s centre and the police who use the building. Other income generation activities include: keeping a bequest box on the counter, encouraging membership of the Friend’s Group which costs £10 per year and retaining the fines and fees.


Farnham Common has a board of 7 volunteers who each have a specific role which includes: volunteer co-ordinator, events, secretary, treasurer, health and safety and maintenance, book donations and children’s activities. The board is supported by a team of 43 volunteers and 12 shift leaders. The service also has 4 Duke of Edinburgh volunteers and have set up a volunteer programme for them. All volunteer skills are utilised and some volunteers do the gardening.

Opening hours

The library is open for 26.5 hours per week and library users also have access to the online reservations and e-services of Buckinghamshire library service. In addition to e-magazines, customers can borrow magazines.

The library issues average 2,000 a month and are continuing to rise about 3.5% per year. Active borrowers are up 2.5% on 2015. The total book stock is about 9,000 items and they also add donations to stock. Two volunteers are responsible for ordering new stock.

Events and activities

A range of events are offered for adults and children and all activities are promoted on the library website. Adult events include a reading group and IT clinics which are run on the first Friday of every month. The classes help people to set up an email account and the public can use the 3 library laptops or the library PC’s.

For children every Thursday morning, there is a song and rhyme sessions for the under 3’s which is usually attended by 18 babies and each Friday there is a storytime for young children. Library club sessions are held for local school children and the library participates in the Summer Reading Challenge.

Every half term there are art and craft sessions as well as school holiday sessions. Organising social events is important for the community and visits offered include: theatre trips, musicals, day visits and a concert. They also host a Christmas supper, author events and a coffee morning in the library.

Lessons learnt / outcomes

To manage volunteers, the co-ordinator uses Three Rings, an online volunteer management system. Three Rings can be used on PCs (including Macs), tablets and mobile phones. In addition to showing volunteers shifts, there is a password protected file store which can be used to store documents that volunteers can access. This learning was shared across the network of community libraries and is now used by many other groups.

Farnham Common uses social media, in particular Facebook, and finds that producing a newsletter is invaluable for advertising the services and events on offer.

Challenges / future plans

The resource agreement is coming up for review and being part of the statutory service provision and having the agreement is important for Farnham Common community library.

For further information see the Farnham Common community library website, the community library magazine or their Facebook page Email contact:

Published 23 March 2016