Case study

Community library: Wool, Dorset

Overview of a community library from the perspective of the community

Wool community library, Dorset

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

Community library model and governance

The Friends of Wool Library took over the management of a revamped Wool community library from Dorset County Council (DCC) on Tuesday 15 January 2013 working in co-operation with Wool Parish Council. The Friends of Wool Library is a small charity with annually-elected trustees. It is in the process of seeking Charitable Incorporated Organisation status.

Agreement with the local authority / funding

Wool community library, is run by volunteers who, under the terms of a formal agreement with the county council, receive a package of support. This includes:

  • an initial 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 libraries liaison officer of no less than 3 hours per week
  • 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
  • print consumables to cover library use based on known average use
  • the use and support of People’s Network PCs in the community library to provide users with access to the internet and DCC’s virtual library
  • WiFi installation but the community pay the ongoing costs

Role of the community

Under the terms of the agreement and its own terms of reference, the Friends of Wool Library has agreed to be responsible for all operating costs and to manage the library for the benefit of the local community and all other members of the public who may wish to use it. In addition to complying with all the necessary licences, policies, acts and legislation, the trustees have agreed to operate as a minimum the same opening hours as previously provided by the council. They have also agreed to the fees and charges and to link its community managed website to the council’s library service web pages.

Wool community library shares its premises with Wool Parish Council who pay for the lease, heating and the lighting. The 4 year rolling agreement with DCC provides infrastructure support and stability, and donations are encouraged through signing up to be a Friend of Wool Library. All other costs are met by subscription from the Friends, by fund-raising activities and grants from local charitable bodies in cash or kind.


The library is run with a team of 35 volunteers and each library session is manned by 3 volunteers. Most volunteers are over 60 years of age. In addition to the opening hours volunteers, there are 2 out of hours teams who undertake the administration work.

Opening hours

The library is open for 7 hours per week spread across 3 sessions.

Events and activities

The library offers the Summer Reading Challenge, Books on Prescription and takes part in World Book Night. Additional events are organised and the service is looking to work with a digital champion to provide IT sessions. In 2014, as part of the Summer Reading Challenge and its associated activities, Wool community library organised two video workshops led by professional film-maker, Andrew Kerr. Andrew helped 5 young members of Wool community library make their own short documentary film about the Challenge and why they were taking part. The children, aged from 10 to 14, operated the camera, recorded the sound and interviewed each other, as well as other patrons.

Lessons learnt / outcomes

Since taking over the running of the library, the volunteers have overseen many improvements including:

  • new mobile shelving to make more flexible use of the space
  • new counter lay-out
  • new blinds
  • a total make-over of the foyer

The volunteer coordinator feels that the secret to success is happy volunteers who are engaged in roles that play to their strengths and are interesting. The service also gets help and advice from Dorset Community Action.

Challenges / future plans

Longer term plans would ideally include being able to extend the library floorspace in order to be able to revamp the children’s area and deliver more events.

Further information on [Wool community library(

Published 23 March 2016