Case study

Community library: Stalbridge, Dorset

Overview of a community library from the perspective of the community

Stalbridge community library, Dorset

Stalbridge community library, Dorset. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

Community library model and governance

Stalbridge community library has been managed by volunteers since February 2013. The library used to be stand alone but is now located within a community hub called The Hub@Stalbridge which also includes: the town clerk’s office, a flexible meeting space which is used for town council meetings and IT classes, a private meeting room and a community information point. This mixed space facility has been developed in the last 3 years and offers locals a one stop shop. Through the community information service people can access information on tourism, travel, find out about planning, recycling, highway and police matters.

Agreement with the local authority / funding

Under the terms of a formal agreement with the county council, they receive the following support:

  • the community library building on a 25 year lease
  • a one-off grant of £2,000 from the council to help in the establishment of a community managed library
  • stock collection of fiction and non-fiction for adults and children and large print books which will be at least 95% of the size of the existing collection
  • continuation of stock circulation
  • 300 new books per year for adults and children, shelf ready with (Radio-Frequency IDentification (RFID) tags purchased through the local authorities procurement contract
  • all library service stock can be reserved online for collection at the community library or any other library in the local authority
  • full access to the inter library loan system
  • reading group sets, audiobooks and DVDs are available through the reservation system
  • access to e-magazines and all online resources
  • donated stock which meets the Collection Development Policy standard will be added to the system by the community library liaison officer
  • initial and ongoing training
  • ongoing support for volunteers from a community library liaison officer of no less than 3 hours per week
  • print consumables to cover library use based on known average use
  • broadband provision for the Library Management System (LMS) and the public computers
  • provision, maintenance and upgrades of the computer systems and RFID self service unit and the RFID staff pad for use with the LMS in line with the county council library service network
  • a printer / scanner and Voice over IP (VOIP) phone
  • the use and support of People’s Network PCs in the community library to provide users with access to the internet and Dorset County Council’s virtual library

Role of the community

Under the terms of the agreement the community managed library has agreed to be responsible for all operating costs and to manage the library for the benefit of the local community. In addition to complying with all the necessary licences, policies, acts and legislation, the trustees have agreed to use DCC’s fees and charges, and to develop a community managed website which is linked to the council’s library service web pages.


The volunteer coordinator works with 30 volunteers to organise the rota system for running the library. There is a structured framework for running the library and all volunteers adhere to this as it helps to ensure that a quality service is provided. The volunteer co-ordinator and the volunteers feel that the social aspect of volunteering is very important and an annual thank you event including food and skittles is organised at a local pub.

Opening hours

Stalbridge community library has now increased its opening hours to 6 days a week for 20 hours.

Events and activities

Stalbridge community library actively encourages adults and children within the community to use the library and engage in regional and national reading offers such as South West Reads and the Summer Reading Challenge. Class visits from local schools to the library are organised to encourage the year round engagement of children.

For adults author events are provided and library users can access computers and print or scan material. Additional IT help and WiFi is available through the hub facilities. A range of local events are also provided at the hub.

Lessons learnt / outcomes

The team has learned that:

  • the recruitment of volunteers with key skills has been essential to the successful running of the community library
  • a management team with a range of professional skills can make a significant contribution to the setting up and the running of the community library
  • the e-newsletter is important for keeping the community informed of library events and activities
  • donated stock which is not added to the LMS is available for people to borrow and is well used

Challenges / future plans

Stalbridge’s main challenge for the future is to maintain and build upon their patron numbers. Also, the team will to continue to develop plans for involving younger readers in reading, both at pre-school and school age.

For further information see Stalbridge community library website which includes, as an example, their February-March 2016 newsletter

Published 23 March 2016