- Department for Culture, Media & Sport
- Part of:
- Libraries shaping the future: toolkit and case studies and Library services
- First published:
- 16 December 2015
Consortium which, through sharing of staff and other resources, provides better value for money and financial savings.
LibrariesWest is a partnership of 7 public library authorities in the south west of England.
Contribution to corporate priorities
LibrariesWest makes many positive contributions to the corporate priorities of each local authority. Key examples include:
- partnership working between local authorities
- the sharing of staff and other resources to provide better value for money for council tax payers
- the joint procurement of systems and materials (e.g. Library Management System (LMS), stock contracts) to achieve financial savings and an improved customer offer
- sharing of best practice to enhance the development of services
Description of the work and the relationship
LibrariesWest is an established partnership between 7 neighbouring local authority library services in the south west of England. In July 2015, Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole joined existing members Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire, resulting in a ‘coast to coast’ service.
The partnership was established initially to share LMS and Bibliographical Services Unit, but has grown over the years to deliver partnership working in other areas such as shared marketing initiatives and activities, staff training and a shared public enquiry service.
Somerset County Council (SCC) is the lead authority for the partnership and employs a small number of staff to deliver shared services. Staff costs are shared between the partners proportional to their size based on the population served.
There is a clearly defined list of core services which all authorities purchase (LMS ICT systems team support and LMS contract management.) Other ‘lead authority’ services are optional, for instance only 3 authorities currently buy into the public enquiry service.
LibrariesWest is a resilient partnership that has evolved over a number of years. Although there are other library consortia in the UK, we believe we are unique in the level of integration between services and the resulting offer to customers.
Outcomes achieved for the authorities
Each authority sees the partnership as essential to the running of its library service, unlocking access to a greater range of resources than any one authority would be able to afford on their own. Centralising core activities such as the management and delivery of the LMS, bibliographic services and e-book and e-audio book services relieves some of the pressure on staff capacity in partner authorities, allowing them to focus instead on delivering their other services at a local level. Key examples are:
- sharing a joint LMS which serves a growing resident population in excess of 2.1 million, across a network of more than 140 static and mobile libraries
- shared Bibliographic Services Unit which procures, processes library materials and manages stock contracts for 5 local authorities
- pooling resources and expertise to deliver shared promotional initiatives around key dates in the library calendar (e.g. National Libraries Day, Summer Reading Challenge), which allows us to provide an enhanced customer offer
- single shared digital offers (e.g. e-books, library app) – sharing set up and delivery costs so more resources can be diverted to purchasing stock
Outcomes achieved for library customers
Members of LibrariesWest authorities have a level of access to library resources significantly greater than they would otherwise have as a customer of an individual library service. Key examples of this are:
- customers can use their library membership card in over 140 libraries to borrow, return and reserve items and use any public computer to access the internet and use office and other software
- a shared catalogue of over 3 million items, which provides residents across the local authorities with a greater choice and range of titles than would ever be possible with a single authority catalogue, delivered through a shared customer facing website
- enhanced customer offer around key dates in the library calendar (e.g. National Libraries Day, Summer Reading Challenge) through the pooling of resources and sharing of expertise
- enhanced customer offer around the sharing of digital resources such as e-books, which improves the volume and range of available titles
- a Shared Information Service, which individual authorities buy into as a cost-effective way of delivering an information offer to library customers
The following are written comments from library customers which we believe evidence our commitment to providing high quality services:
I am simply writing to say how excellent I have found using the new online reservation system. It is quick and reliable, and the range of audiobooks I can get has been greatly expanded as so many libraries are included.
Just a little note to congratulate your library service – I saw a review of a cycling book in an American newspaper on Sunday, saw a copy was available in Yeovil Library (Somerset) on Monday and it arrived for me at Yatton (North Somerset) on Thursday.
Just wanted to say thank you for offering the e-books service! It’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to more and more books being added.
Ensure a robust governance structure is in place. LibrariesWest has a consortium agreement which outlines the responsibilities of each authority. This agreement has evolved over a number of years in the light of experience, and has been drafted by SCC legal services to ensure it protects the interests of all parties.
Ensure there is a clear ‘offer’ to potential new partner authorities. It is preferable to have this in place before any negotiations begin, so that a potential new partner is fully aware of the offer and what is expected of a partner authority.
Have mechanisms in place to monitor performance and measure impact.
The existing partnership provides a platform to enable the 7 authorities to explore further opportunities for co-operative working, both within the existing partnership and potentially beyond.
Although LibrariesWest is currently a partnership of neighbouring authorities, we are open to approaches from any UK library authority wishing to explore how we might work together in ways that would be mutually beneficial.
We have a long term ambition to standardise more of our fees and charges to provide a more coherent customer offer across all 7 authorities.
Our shared public facing website contains an archive of Annual Reports dating back to 2007. The link can be found by clicking on ‘About LibrariesWest’.
The LibrariesWest Offer document and LibrariesWest Board Terms of Reference could be made available on request.
Contact for further information: LibrariesWest@somerset.gov.uk
Published: 16 December 2015