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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-alternative-delivery-models-toolkit/stage-2-the-case-for-change
Libraries provide exciting opportunities to act as hubs at the heart of communities and contribute to a range of national and local government priorities. These priorities for a given locality and its library service will usually be outlined in the council’s library strategy.
This section of the toolkit is designed to support library services and councils, having defined their future function, to consider whether current priorities and intended library service functions can be achieved within existing resources and via existing structures; or if there is a case for changing from the current in-house model.
2. Why consider the case for change?
If councils and library services are in a position to fully meet local need within existing structures, then the case for change is weak. However, if the council and library service anticipate being unable to meet local need and deliver the library strategy, a case for change begins to emerge.
This case is further strengthened should the future viability of the library service or the ability of the council to deliver a statutory service be brought into question.
The council could focus thinking on which current services should be continued; which should be reduced; and whether any services should be stopped altogether. This will have been initially considered during Stage 1: defining function.
The initial decision to consider alternative operating models formed part of the Strategy for Nottinghamshire Libraries approved by the council in 2011. This followed a range of agreed budget reductions and formed part of considering options for the future.
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The alternative is to consider whether library services could be delivered differently, involving a move away from the current delivery model towards innovative models that may be able to improve the long-term sustainability of the service.
The process of considering the case for change is designed to help draw conclusions on whether the current in-house delivery model will be sustainable. Rather than test the suitability of a range of alternative delivery models, at this stage the process focusses on asking the fundamental question: is the in-house model the right one for the future?
- how sustainable is it to oversee managed decline, year on year?
- is there more we would be doing to realise the services full potential?
- what’s the political and community appetite for change?
Suffolk Libraries IPS
3. Analysis of external factors
A PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental) analysis is designed to map the external factors that are currently impacting or are anticipated to impact on the library service and relevant stakeholders.
A PESTLE analysis template (this will download) is provided to support this process. Identify the main challenges facing the service, while also assessing each challenge in terms of its anticipated impact on the service and the likelihood of it materialising.
A PESTLE will help identify whether the current library service is able to meet future challenges and demands as an in-house service. The findings from this exercise provide helpful information to inform the case for change.
The national picture made it easy to convince people as they could see reports in the media about libraries closing. Neighbouring authorities were closing libraries and both staff and local people were very concerned about the future of their library. We held focus groups and roadshows. But what was most important was the frontline staff talking to the public everyday about what we had planned.
Local councillors were also very clear that doing nothing was not an option.
4. Analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Informed by the PESTLE analysis, it is recommended that you undertake a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.
This exercise requires the library service and council to consider how well placed the service is to take advantage of the opportunities and address the threats identified in the PESTLE analysis.
A template (this will download) is available to help you to undertake this analysis.
The SWOT analysis findings should be used to help draw conclusions about the current library service’s ability to address the challenges and exploit the opportunities you have identified. The findings from this exercise provide helpful information to inform the case for change.
5. Assessing the case for change
Informed by the PESTLE and SWOT analysis results, you will be in a strong position to consider the case for change. It is recommended that a document is developed with analysis of the following areas:
5.1 Summary of situation
An overview of the current status of the library service, in terms of the service’s ability to meet statutory services and locally agreed priorities. This should refer to the main challenges being experienced by the service, and provide details of how well positioned the service is to deal with these pressures.
5.2 PESTLE analysis
A summary of the findings from the PESTLE analysis, including details of the prominent external factors that are impacting on the service’s current operations and viability.
5.3 SWOT analysis
A summary of the service’s main strengths and the opportunities open to it, as well as an overview of its weaknesses and the threats facing the service.
5.4 Customer and community needs (current and future)
An analysis of the findings from recent needs assessments.
- an assessment of whether statutory requirements are currently being met (or exceeded), and whether this is likely to continue in the future
- identification of any gaps in current service provision, and risks associated with unmet need
- consideration of whether your intended function is achievable given your service’s current delivery model, or whether significant changes are required
5.5 Spending objectives
An analysis of whether the funding available to support the delivery of library services will allow for the needs of the population to be met. You need:
- to define the spending objectives for the library service, in terms of the desired outcomes and priorities
- an objective analysis of whether the funding available to the library services enables it to meet the expectations of communities and council commissioners
5.6 Benefits and risks associated with various levels of change
Informed by the above analysis, summarise the perceived benefits and risks associated with:
Doing nothing – A review of existing arrangements and an explanation of how the library service is currently organised and delivered. Consider whether doing nothing is a viable option. Do existing arrangements enable the library service to meet (or exceed) statutory requirements and the spending objectives agreed with the council?
The library service remaining in-house but undertaking a degree of re-engineering. Assess whether re-engineering the in-house service or sharing library services across 2 or more councils would realise significant advantages in terms of improving outcomes and engagement. Consider whether such changes would address underlying issues, and if these steps would be effective.
Externalising the service (irrespective of which external delivery model option is selected).
These benefits and risks should be identified from the perspectives of library staff, library users and Friends Groups, community groups, the council and other important stakeholders.
5.7 Summary of findings
Following the above analysis, draw conclusions in terms of whether doing nothing is a desirable option. If some form of change is required, assess how strong the case for change is – could change be at a low level, or are more fundamental changes required?
The [next section](https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-alternative-delivery-models-toolkit/stage-3-the-case-for-externalisation covers the third stage of the process - considering the case for externalisation.