Press release

First 10 areas to join future library programme announced

Communities around the country will have chance to test drive ambitious change programme for libraries, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Communities around the country will have the chance to test drive an ambitious change programme for libraries, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey announced today.

The Future Libraries Programme, formed by a partnership between national and local government, and driven by councils themselves, aims to help the library service during the current challenging financial situation, with an ambition to ensure libraries play a central role for communities in the Big Society.

Fifty one submissions, representing over 100 local authorities, have come forward with proposals for innovative collaborations and initiatives - ten of these projects will be taken forward and offered practical support and advice in this first phase.

The programme will initially undertake intensive, proactive work on ten projects representing around three dozen local authorities. Bids to take part were assessed on their individual strengths, but also to ensure a balance of the type of project, geographical spread, and rural and urban mix to help ensure the programme shares learning nationally.

The ten phase one areas are:

  • Northumberland with Durham

  • Bolton, with Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan

  • Bradford 

  • Lincolnshire, with Rutland, Cambridgeshire, North East Lincs, Peterborough

  • Suffolk  

  • Oxfordshire with Kent

  • Herefordshire with Shropshire

  • Cornwall with Devon, Plymouth, Torbay

  • Lewisham with Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth and Southwark

  • Kensington & Chelsea with Hammersmith & Fulham

The programme promises to build momentum on the ideas that have been generated and spread learning between library authorities to achieve cost savings, new partnerships and governance models, and to take advantage of digital opportunities.  Central to the programme is the vision for library services to have greater connection with other local services and an ambition for services to be designed around the needs of the public, rather than based on organisational boundaries.

The Museums Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) and the LGA Group (Local Government Association Group) will begin work immediately with packages of support and advice for each of the projects. As work gets underway with the initial ten projects, planning for the second phase of the Programme will press ahead to ensure the successes and experiences of each project can be collected and shared with library authorities across England so that the results of the programme can benefit people throughout the country.

Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey said:

“A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services.

“The enthusiasm from library authorities across the country for this opportunity for expert support, from the LGA Group and the MLA, has been overwhelming. The response demonstrates just how vital library services are to people and communities and that leaders in local authorities are keen to develop their full potential in new and forward-thinking ways. I hope that through this programme we can help support the leadership of services so that they can continue to provide a high quality library service which, in today’s challenging economic times, people need more than ever.”

MLA Chief Executive, Roy Clare CBE said:

“We are delighted that there has been such a strong response from local government to this initiative.  This collaboration sees beyond the short term, and sets an ambition for the library service that places it firmly in an era of digital service, consumer choice and public service collaboration across geographical and organisational boundaries. We are keen to ensure that all authorities are part of this ambition in one way or another and the MLA will continue to provide support to these 10 projects and dozens of others as we press ahead.”

Councillor Chris White, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board said:

“It is good that Ministers have recognised that innovation, improvement and saving money come from the people on the ground who run libraries. This scheme will support and showcase genuinely local ideas about how to modernise and improve them. Crucially this means that the people who use and cherish their local libraries will have a much greater say in their future.”

Notes to Editors

  1. For further information from the MLA/ LGA Group on the support programme please visit the MLA website or contact John Harrison, MLA press office, 020 7273 1402 or Simon Ward, LGA Group press office, 020 7664 3147.

  2. Future Libraries Programme ten phase one partners :

Working Together - Greater Manchester Libraries (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan)

The project will conduct a feasibility study and options appraisal to identify efficiency savings and customer service improvement opportunities and consider alternative governance models. This work will identify business models for a collaborative approach to library services for the Greater Manchester Region that will maintain and improve these statutory services. These models would be flexible enough to allow involvement of other library authorities and/or cultural organisations within the NW region.
The future model whilst acknowledging local accountability will go beyond delivering current services at less cost. It must release capacity to transform the services in order to invest in new developments that fit with social, economic and technological change. A vibrant, high quality, relevant and economically sustainable service for the 21st century is the ultimate aim. Improving services together; Enhancing quality together; Achieving value together.

Going Digital, Going Local; transforming libraries in Northumberland and Durham

Faced with similar issues relating to broadband access, digital exclusion and rural outreach, Northumberland and Durham County Councils have joined together on a project which will put libraries at the heart of their communities.  The two councils wish to make use of shared arrangements relating to IT and professional support to enable their libraries to offer access to a range of councils and other services. Local communities will be able to use libraries to learn, make transactions, obtain the best sources of information and develop information handling skills, as well as accessing employment opportunities.  Community engagement will be central to the project. Particular emphasis will be given to improving IT skills and confidence through the use of volunteers, testing how on-line borrowing challenges can be overcome, and looking at new models for the rural offer including work with rural community transport providers.

Modernising Library Services in two sparse rural counties (Herefordshire and Shropshire)

Herefordshire and Shropshire Councils face many similar challenges not least delivering services  to sparse populations in highly rural areas, but also a number of opportunities to create modern and effective library services.  The two unitary authorities share a common approach and understanding in the delivery of services at a local level. Therefore, the project will consider the use of new models of service delivery building on both authorities’ experience in working with communities to deliver and improve services. The programme will look at a range of delivery and management options that will shape sustainable services, including the options of charitable trust status and neighbourhood run libraries. While these approaches are also being tested elsewhere this project will ensure that they meet the needs of predominantly rural counties and build on the innovation and best practice found in both authorities. The project is a joint partnership with equal weight given to both partners, Herefordshire Council being the nominated lead authority.

Breaking Boundaries (Lincolnshire, Rutland, Cambridgeshire, North East Lincs; Peterborough)
The project will focus on how Lincolnshire can work with neighbouring authorities and local communities to develop library services beyond their perceived traditional role and across a large geographical area. These ‘product extensions’ will include access to other public services, key information hubs and the provision of democratic community space. The aim is to reposition libraries as a core service of local government, making them relevant and responsive. It will ask how communities should be involved in the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of library services. Solutions will be developed across administrative boundaries with Rutland and North East Lincolnshire. Shared back office and procurement arrangements will be tested with Vivacity, Peterborough’s Culture and Leisure Trust. The benefits of collaborative working will be explored with Cambridgeshire by developing the SPINE partnership. There will be two core elements within the project which will focus on key stakeholders: how to involve communities in the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of library services; and how to engage local councillors, the private and voluntary sectors in the development of high performing, value for money library services which meet the needs of local communities.

Local Libraries (Suffolk)

The Suffolk project is about working with community groups to support them in managing their local library.  This approach aims to enable communities to take control of running their library and shape it to meet the needs of local people.  These community run libraries will be supported by a countywide online service, a network which allows people to borrow from one place and return to another, as well as a ‘value for money’ book lending and reservation service. This approach aims to enable communities to take control of running their libraries, shaping them to fit their locality, whilst making savings in management and bureaucracy, yet retaining the networked services which are so valued in Suffolk.

Closer Working in South East London (Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark)

The Future Libraries Programme is an exciting opportunity to deliver a step change across library services in South East London. Through it, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Southwark, will look at options and opportunities for improving quality and reducing costs by working more closely together.

These library authorities - members of the South East Libraries Performance Improvement Group (SELPIG) - will build on individual strengths and distinctive features, to retain and improve best practice models and introduce new solutions.

Joint Delivery of library services (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea)

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea plan to explore the feasibility of sharing library services to be delivered or commissioned jointly across borough borders. This will include investigating alternative models for delivering library services in what could be an innovative way forward for both authorities, and which, in addition, could provide a model for other London boroughs.

Library Links (Bradford)

Bradford Council is working with communities to help remodel its library service to provide major libraries in key centres across the district supported by a network of sustainable local service points - Library Links. Potentially many of these library link points will be located in shared outlets with extended opening times in partnership with a retail partner.  A joint approach with a retail partner has the potential to relocate libraries into stores with excess space, redevelop existing library sites to incorporate new library facilities attached to retail stores and new developments of joint library/retail facilities.  This programme will enable Bradford to develop a remodelled and sustainable library service delivered though innovative partnership working and using a joint approach which is effective and efficient for both parties.

Innovation, Collaboration and Efficiency - The South West Peninsula Library Partnership:  (Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth, Torbay)

The South West Peninsula library partnership has been working together since 2009 to explore how joint working can create efficiencies, and maximise opportunities to deliver high quality, innovative and best practice library services at a time of financial constraint.  This project will enable us to accelerate that work.  The project will identify the scale of the potential efficiencies, explore areas for innovative service improvement across the partnership and identify appropriate governance models, which can incorporate the shared services across the four authorities whilst also retaining clear accountability and identity for the delivery of libraries at a local level.  As a group of authorities, we look forward to sharing the results of our project with other local authorities as we recognise that the models we evolve may be appropriate for many other parts of the country. 

Delivering Library Services for the Future (Oxfordshire and Kent)

Two large counties are using the opportunity this programme provides to develop a new long term model for library services provided in rural counties.  The model will need to substantially and permanently reduce the cost of provision, while retaining those features which are valuable to customers (good stock, access to information, community spaces and knowledgeable staff).  The new model will need to deliver library services fit for purpose in the 21st century, including extensive online services such as e books, e loans and social networking, as well as provision that draws on Big Society principles of locally driven and community based activity.

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Published 20 May 2012