Case study

Community library: Frecheville, Sheffield

Overview of a community library from the perspective of the community

Frecheville community library. Image credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce
Frecheville community library. Image credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

Community library model and governance

Frecheville Library and Learning Centre is an associate library and a registered not for profit charity. Community volunteers took over the running of the library on the 29 September 2014 and are supported by Sheffield City Council (SCC).

Agreement with the local authority / funding

Frecheville is an associate library. The terms of its agreement with SCC are:

  • premises provided at a peppercorn rent (for a 5 year lease, extendable for up to 25 years)
  • that the council will work with the library to ensure statutory compliance (of buildings open to the public) and provide guidance (if required) about appropriate levels of insurance
  • a funding programme until end of March 2017, groups can claim a grant from the fund up to the level of the running costs for each library
  • access to maintenance and training for the Library Management System (LMS), although a stripped down version, costs were taken from the funding programme but is now provided at no cost
  • training programmes in running volunteer / charity organisations
  • stock and stock circulation will continue to be provided as the property of the council whilst libraries retain the LMS and share the library catalogue
  • a delivery service
  • access to the people’s network service, computers, internet access, printer support and maintenance
  • safe, alarm system and keys
  • G4S cash collection services
  • sharing of income generation examples such as room hire, coffee mornings, sale of goods and grant funded activity

The purchase of new books was not part of the cabinet report, however some are being purchased for the groups at the request of cabinet members and discussions are being held regarding adding books purchased by the groups themselves to the LMS catalogue.

Frecheville also get advice, guidance and support from a Volunteer Coordinator and some other library support services. This package includes:

  • marketing and promotion to help recruit volunteers
  • access to a training programme for volunteers (safeguarding, equalities, health and safety and confidentiality)
  • quarterly forum to share best practice
  • information and support to make links with council and other providers such as public health

Role of the community

Frecheville library manages the building on a lease from the council and are responsible for the building maintenance, insurance and health and safety. They also take the lead in recruiting, training and managing volunteers with support from the volunteer coordinator. The library and learning centre recruits volunteers into a variety of roles, these include:

  • library helper
  • counter assistant
  • cleaner
  • fundraiser
  • cake baker
  • management
  • activity organiser
  • gardener


There are 35 volunteers on the rota and there are 8 committee members. The volunteers operate 2 shifts, morning and afternoon and there is a minimum of 3 volunteers per shift. Ideally volunteers work every week to provide continuity and good customer service. A Library and Information Officer supports the volunteer training.

The volunteers purchase new books on a monthly basis and add these and suitable donated books to their own issuing system. The books are identified by an Frecheville library sticker on the spine.

In order to generate additional income tea, cakes and biscuits are offered to library users and the volunteers run regular fairs to generate income. Local people donate games, bric-a-brac and toys and the knit and natter group sell their goods and donate the profit. All money raised goes directly to the running and improving the library services and the building.

Opening hours

The library is open for 24 hours per week. This is an extra 2 hours per week than when it was run by the council as the library no longer closes for lunch.

In 2015/16 there were around 11,000 issues on the LMS and the library also issues from their own library stock. Visitor numbers are now not counted by the council as Associate Libraries are not part of its statutory provision).

Events and activities

The library offers a range of events and activities including weekly:

  • babytime 10am -11.30am – every Monday (0-2 years)
  • knit and natter 10.00am-12.00 - every Monday and Thursday morning
  • evening craft and chatter group
  • coffee morning 10.30am first Thursday of every month
  • reading Groups 10.30am and 5.30pm last Friday of every month

In addition to regular activities the library provides a free arts and crafts table for children and their parent / carers to draw and create. Toys and jigsaws are provided and the library celebrates National Libraries Day and offers the Summer Reading Challenge. The library has a relationship with local schools such as Birley Primary and Birley Spa Primary and class visits to the library are organised on a weekly basis during term time.

For adults a partnership with adult learning enables the library and learning centre to provide free WiFi and digital skills training. Other events for adults include author visits and quiz nights.

Lessons learnt

The appointment of a (volunteer) library manager to oversee the co-ordination of volunteers and activities has proved to be critical and has also been a great development opportunity for the individual.

The management board and the community benefits from having a previous member of library staff working as a volunteer.

The volunteers are continuing to market the library to the community as there is the perception that the library has closed. Community support is vital as are links with other local groups/other volunteer run libraries.

The library worked with a local college and using funding from the Princes Trust to decorate the outside of the building. They have also painted the inside of the library and hope to have a new carpet for the entrance.

It is important to develop lead volunteers who can manage individual shifts as well as provide ongoing training for volunteers.


A significant challenge is generating sufficient income to contribute towards the maintenance costs and to enable the library to be self sufficient by 2017.

Published 17 June 2016