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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/libraries-shaping-the-future-good-practice-toolkit/libraries-shaping-the-future-good-practice-toolkit
This best practice guide has been produced by the Libraries Taskforce, for chief executives and library portfolio holders. This is a beta document, that means this is the first version. During this beta phase, we will be continually testing and improving the toolkit. We’re looking for feedback. Please let us know your thoughts by using the feedback button at the bottom of the page (or any of the case study pages). Alternatively please email email@example.com
Millions of people use libraries: public libraries in England were visited 225 million times in 2014/15 - more in total than visits to Premier League football games, the cinema, and the top 10 UK tourist attractions combined.
Libraries are trusted spaces, free to enter and open to all. In them, people explore and share reading, information, knowledge and culture. We know that people value the range of books, digital and other resources as well as the trained staff who help them.
Public libraries in England are a statutory service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Guidance on Libraries as a Statutory Service provides more information on the legislative framework and points to consider if you are reviewing your library service, as well as learning from previous case reviews and inquiries.
The purpose of this toolkit is to:
- show how libraries as a statutory service and a core part of community hubs, contribute to local and national priorities
- share good practice
- provide information on alternative governance models
- introduce ideas on smarter ways of working
The toolkit covers the following sections:
Libraries have always been integral to the communities they serve and this toolkit demonstrates the role of libraries as an essential part of community hubs. As evidenced through the case studies, library services contribute to 7 Outcomes that are critical to the individuals and communities in their areas:
- cultural and creative enrichment
- increased reading and literacy
- improved digital access and literacy
- helping everyone achieve their full potential
- healthier and happier lives
- greater prosperity
- stronger, more resilient communities
More information on these 7 Outcomes can be found in the Libraries Taskforce’s Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021.
Many local authorities are reviewing service delivery for all council services in order to maximise effectiveness and efficiency. Across England, various governance models have developed to deliver library services, with no 2 councils following exactly the same approach. Within one council, there may be more than one delivery model.
1.3 Smarter services
With continuing pressures on budgets, working smarter is critical in the context of making efficiencies, stimulating innovation and seeking new sources of income. This section describes a range of approaches that could be considered.
Links to additional resources for the provision of library services.
2. How local council priorities are supported and delivered by libraries the 7 outcomes the public library network support
In this period of change and budget restrictions, there are numerous challenges such as:
- changing demographics and social mobility
- increasing demands for social care
- developing and sustaining communities to look after the most vulnerable, including children’s safeguarding
- need to support the creation of new business and drive economic growth
Given this situation, libraries provide exciting opportunities to act as the heart of community hubs and contribute to a range of national and local government priorities. Library services contribute to 7 Outcomes that are critical to the individuals and communities in their areas:
- cultural and creative enrichment
- increased reading and literacy
- improved digital access and literacy
- helping everyone achieve their full potential
- healthier and happier lives
- greater prosperity
- stronger, more resilient communities
The Society of Chief Librarians’ (SCL) Universal Offers provide a framework that helps libraries deliver the 7 Outcomes. They currently cover 5 topics: Health, Reading, Digital, Information, Learning and Culture. Each is underpinned by the Children’s Promise and Six Steps initiatives. The Universal Offers are a national framework of partnerships, programmes and messages that can be flexibly delivered at a local level. They’ve been developed in partnership with The Reading Agency (joint owner of the Health and Reading Offers), Arts Council England, the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) and Share the Vision.
2.1 Health and wellbeing / social care
Libraries contribute to the health and wellbeing and social care of local communities by:
- supporting people with dementia and mental health issues
- contributing to the preventative health agenda
- contributing to local councils public health responsibilities for young children
Supporting people with dementia and mental health issues
Libraries deliver the national Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme which is part of the national health offer for libraries. The scheme consists of a list of books that is curated and endorsed by health professionals and provides support for those suffering from common mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, phobias and some eating disorders) and dementia. Using the lists, GPs and health professionals can recommend reading materials to patients, which encourages self management, and can help reduce the need for costly interventions. In the case of dementia, the scheme also provides practical support for carers.
There is evidence from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that self-help books can help people understand and manage common conditions, including depression and anxiety.
Books on Prescription is one way in which libraries support mental health, one of the responsibilities passed to local councils by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This is demonstrated in a 2014/15 survey of 170,000 people who borrowed a book from the Books on Prescription scheme. When surveyed on their view of the mental health conditions book list:
- 90% said that the scheme had been helpful for understanding their condition
- 85% said it had helped them to feel more confident about managing their symptoms
- 55% said that their symptoms had reduced or had got better
In Devon, public health supported the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, conducting an evaluation to assess where the scheme was reaching the targeted groups of people with common mental health conditions. The report concluded:
- that an initial evaluation shows that working in partnership with the libraries is an effective way to reach all groups of the population including those in lower socioeconomic groups
- both nationally and locally the scheme is supported by GPs
- the scheme reaches those where the prevalence of mental ill health is higher
In Spring 2016, Reading Well for young people was launched with with support and advice on common mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and stress, as well as difficult experiences like bullying and exams.
Through their programme of support for early years language, literacy and reading for pleasure, libraries help to improve life chances and contribute to the council’s public health responsibilities to the under 5’s. See children’s language, literacy development and reading for pleasure for more information on how libraries work with children.
Case study: Somerset libraries: autism collection
Libraries provide access to health and social care information and signpost customers to online information and specialist agencies. Many library services are dementia friendly, offering stimulating community events such as reminiscence groups.They also work with public health colleagues to offer health advice sessions. Some are commissioned by Public Health England to deliver a range of services by hosting smoking cessation schemes, promoting their programmes and providing access to health checks.
The economic value of the health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries
A study on the economic value of the health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries found that using the library has a positive association with general health. The predicted medical cost savings associated with library use is £1.32 per person per year, based on reductions in GP visits caused by improved access to health information, saving the NHS an estimated £27.5 million a year across the library-using population as a whole.
2.2 Vibrant economy - economic and business growth
Libraries support the economy by providing:
- advice and support to help people start business and create jobs
- support for job seekers and career development support
- spaces for co-creation
- volunteering opportunities
- access to advice on money management
New or refurbished libraries with flexible areas who innovatively use their space can be the catalyst for regeneration. See co-location in Smarter Services.
Access to employment
Libraries enable people to access employment through job clubs, back to work programmes and facilitated sessions with partner agencies, eg Adult Learning and Skills, Jobcentre Plus and local organisations.
Job seekers are offered free internet and wifi access as as well as a range of digital support sessions by staff and other partners, such as digital champions. In libraries, 14,000 frontline staff have received digital skills training to enable them to assist job seekers, of which 75% were referred from either a Jobcentre Plus or a work programme provider.
Case study: Gateshead Library: support to jobseekers
Spaces for co-creation
Libraries offer new opportunities for people to create and consume, mingle, exchange ideas, and enable co-creation, eg Exeter Library’s Fab Lab creative making space. In addition, some library services provide access to music studios which enables new business development such as Studio12 in Leeds Central Library.
Case study: Exeter Library Fab Lab: Creative Making Space
Case study: Studio12 in Leeds
Libraries can be the focus point for a community, supporting cultural regeneration by driving footfall, reinvigorating local spirit and helping to change people’s perceptions about places.
See community cohesion for more information on how libraries support place shaping.
Building on the success of the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge, over 9,000 young volunteers have been enthusing children about books and assisting with related activities. Youth volunteering provides the opportunity for the sharing and acquisition of new skills and enables young people to gain accredited recognition of their work through either local or national awards.
Case study: Dorset libraries: Reading challenge volunteers
Supporting SMEs and new businesses
Libraries provide spaces for SMEs to meet and work. With the rollout of free wifi, more businesses are expected to take up this offer.
The British Library’s Business and Intellectual Property (IP) Centre supports business and encourages the development of new entrepreneurs in libraries. The Business and IP Centre national network builds on the centre at the British Library and is transforming city libraries into engines of innovation, economic growth and social mobility. The Business & IP Centres are physical hubs where people can come together to learn, network and access free and low-cost advice and support in protecting and commercialising a business idea. Centres are in central libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield and there are plans to expand the network to 20 libraries across the UK by 2020.
The Enterprising Libraries programme, a partnership between the British Library, Arts Council England and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), funded ten projects in which libraries used their role as community hubs to spark local economic growth and improve social mobility in their communities. This is in partnership with the national network of Business and IP Centres. Collectively, between April 2013 and March 2015, this network:
- generated £38m Gross Value Added on investment, with an estimated increase to £214m by 2018
- created 1,700 new businesses and over 4,200 jobs, with an estimated increase to over 4,100 new businesses and over 22,000 new jobs within the next three years (almost a third in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’)
Case studies from people who have benefited from using a British Library Business & IP Centre please note: scroll to the end of the page.
Outside city centres, some libraries run business support centres working with jobs centres and local Chambers of Commerce. They provide a range of help and information for new businesses for example business start up guides, regulations and marketing solutions.
Case study: Wrexham Libraries: Businessline
Signposting advice on money management
All libraries signpost advice on money management and information on finance. A few, such as Derbyshire Council, have set up credit union collection points in libraries to encourage residents to use them to start saving and as a source for safe, affordable loans.
2.3 Stronger, more resilient communities
Libraries create a sense of place and provide an inclusive venue for all, which is particularly important in deprived areas. In England, over a third of the population visit their local library, and in the poorest areas, that figure rises to nearly half.
Libraries also connect different audiences by:
- providing free wifi access
- working or co-locating with other local authority services and agencies, for example Citizens Advice Bureau and the Post Office
- providing access to cultural activity
In rural areas in particular, the library can provide a focus of activity and may often become the ‘last service’ in a village.
Library resources are tailored to meet community requirements with provision of materials in various formats, for example large print, audio visual and online resources. Most services also provide some assistive digital technology for visually impaired people. This technology can enable visually impaired people to access print and online information, search and apply for jobs and have increased independence.
Case study: Foleshill community library, Coventry
2.4 Improved digital access and literacy
Public libraries play an important role in supporting digital literacy by:
- providing free access to the internet
- helping people get online
- providing assistance so people can access online government services in life critical areas such as Universal Credit and Universal JobMatch
- helping to develop higher end digital skills
Over 20% of adults in the UK do not have online access and libraries help to bridge the digital divide by providing over 60 million hours a year of high-speed internet access through 38,700 PCs. To meet the demands and expectations of an increased number of people using their own devices in libraries, some services like Staffordshire Library Service are introducing wireless printing. By March 2016, there will be free wifi in all libraries which will enable the use of mobile devices.
Libraries are often the first point of contact for customers requiring information on council and local services. Trained staff assist in the provision of information and signposting on areas such as benefits, business, health and wellbeing, jobs, careers and skills, rights and citizenship and money. They also run computer and tablet sessions to enable people to acquire basic and enhanced digital skills. To increase capacity to deliver assisted digital sessions, libraries work with a range of partners, e.g. digital champions.
Helping to develop higher end digital skills
Libraries are also helping to develop higher-end digital skills. Many libraries provide code clubs for children and special sessions on robotics and digital music making.
Case study: Cardiff Central Library Hub: Code Club
2.5 Increased reading and literacy
Library services contribute towards the developing well / living well agendas by:
- contributing to children’s language, literacy development and reading for pleasure
- contributing to children’s literacy across the curriculum
- providing access to reading for pleasure for all
- enabling adults to improve their reading skills
Children’s language, literacy development and reading for pleasure
Libraries offer the opportunity for every child to discover, have fun, to learn and to share. At every stage of development from pre-school to adulthood they offer a safe haven, activities and programmes, all of which are focused on the best outcomes for the child.
Commencing with Bookstart and early years literacy, libraries provide a range of stimulating programmes for example baby rhyme times and story times to encourage speech and language development. Other interventions to promote the enjoyment of reading include:
Every summer, over 800,000 children participate in the Summer Reading Challenge and benefit from related activities such as creative writing and meet the author workshops.
The Reading Agency’s 2015 literature review on the impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment shows how the enjoyment of reading is central to achieving the beneficial outcomes of reading. Key outcomes for children includes; enjoyment, knowledge of the self and other people, increased social interaction, use of imagination, relaxation and mood regulation. Reading for enjoyment is perceived to lead to improvements in young children’s communication abilities.
Libraries facilitate the learning process through the provision of homework clubs and free e-learning resources such as Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Case study: Summer Reading Challenge
Enabling adults to improve their reading skills
One in six people struggle to read and research shows that when inspired to read for pleasure, they benefit from the greater opportunities in everyday life, education and employment. Libraries run the Reading Ahead programme which is designed to help people improve their reading skills and develop a love of reading. Over 48,000 people took part in 2014/15. Through this intervention, library services instil confidence and an enjoyment of reading, helping the 16% of adults who have literacy levels of 11 years of age or under.
2.6 Helping everyone achieve their full potential
Libraries raise people’s aspirations and promote lifelong learning, supplementing formal education provided through schools, colleges and adult education.
Providing access to information and learning
Access to Research gives free digital access in public libraries to over 10 million articles and pieces of research, contained in academic journals and conference proceedings. Subjects include art, architecture, business, engineering, history, languages, politics, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences.
Other developments include STEM workshops for children and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offering those not in higher education the chance to study bite-sized, high quality university level courses.
Case study: Code Club at Cardiff Central Library Hub
2.7 Cultural and creative enrichment
Taking part in cultural activities provide cross-cutting benefits and make a contribution to agendas including:
- health and wellbeing
- developing well / living well
- a vibrant economy
- community cohesion
All libraries offer a free social space for the public to engage in a wide range of arts related events; author talks, book clubs and writers workshops. In addition, many services work with a range of artists to host dance, theatre and musical events that offer the public an opportunity to experience the arts in all its forms. Many of the arts related projects are developed in consultation with the community and link through to the health and wellbeing agendas.
Case study: St Helens libraries: cultural hub
3. Types of delivery models
Libraries are not immune from the challenges facing local government and many councils are looking at efficiency savings across all services. Councils know they need to ensure they provide a “comprehensive and efficient service” and listen to and reflect the changing needs of their communities.
There are a range of models for local authority run libraries in England. These are covered in our Alternative Delivery Models toolkit.
Whatever delivery model is adopted, the council retains statutory accountability for the library service within its boundaries. As illustrated in this map, there are currently a range of models for local authority run libraries in England.
3.1 Getting information if you are considering alternative delivery models
To support library authorities wishing to explore alternative delivery models further, DCMS and the Taskforce commissioned a Libraries: Alternative Delivery Models toolkit.
This toolkit is designed to support library service managers, council commissioners and transformation teams, councillors, Friends Groups and community groups to consider the desirability, viability and feasibility of a range of alternative delivery model (ADM) options for their library services.
It demonstrates and describes a staged approach to investigation and establishment. It also describes the characteristics and potential advantages/disadvantages associated with each type of alternative delivery model.
We want to enable the user to undertake a robust, objective and evidence-based analysis of the various options should they wish to explore moving to a different delivery model. This toolkit was developed by the Optimo partnership, on behalf of the Libraries Taskforce and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The partners worked together to develop a toolkit that brings together a range of technical processes and the real life experiences of the 4 library services that have spun out from their respective councils. These demonstrate some of the challenges and barriers that have been overcome, as well as highlighting some of the benefits that have been realised.
Some case studies of libraries using different models:
- Warwickshire Library Service - Globe House, Alcester
- Carillion plc who run Hounslow, Ealing, Harrow and Croydon
- Northamptonshire’s Wellbeing Community Interest Company (CIC)
- Explore, York Libraries and Archives, mutual
- South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust
- Inspire: Culture, Learning and Libraries - Nottinghamshire
- Libraries Unlimited - Devon
- London Boroughs of Bexley and Bromley working together (please note that this is not a current model)
3.2 Getting information if you are considering establishing or running community managed libraries
The Taskforce has published a Community managed libraries: good practice toolkit. This toolkit is for:
- communities who are looking to establish community libraries
- heads of library services who are supporting communities considering taking over or establishing a community managed library
The Taskforce does not endorse community managed libraries but recognises that some local authorities are, for various reasons, considering heading down this route - and some already have done so. If that path is taken, we want to ensure that all parties involved make informed decisions: understanding the pros and cons and learning from others who have gone before, so that a high quality service is provided to local people.
In this model, volunteers bring added value to the delivery of library services as they actively support staff in a variety of volunteer roles.
- the use of volunteers bring added value to the service
- the potential to extend opening hours
Considerations are that:
- a volunteer policy needs to be in place
- volunteer roles need to be agreed
- volunteers will require training for their roles
- volunteers require ongoing access to professional advice
- resources are needed to manage the volunteer roles
3.4 Independent - community run with no local authority involvement
Following consultation with communities, it may emerge that there are library buildings not needed as part of the statutory library network. In discussions between the authority and the community, residents or a local organisation may decide to take on the running of the service and a building. The authority may provide the transfer of the existing library building as part of a community asset transfer (CAT).
4. Smarter services
With continuing pressures on budgets, working smarter is critical in the context of making efficiencies, stimulating innovation and seeking new sources of income. There are a number of ways this can be done across the sector and the pace is being accelerated with development of digital technologies.
4.1 Joint procurement
Many local authorities are working in consortia for the procurement of services such as Library Management Systems (LMS). Some authorities are also working to better exploit their stock across local authority boundaries. For example, London Libraries Consortium represent 16 councils who jointly procure for their LMS and the Central Buying Consortium represents 52 councils that procure books and other library resources together. This enables all participating authorities to benefit from the cheaper prices usually available from collective buying power. It also reduces the costs, time and staff overheads associated with duplicate procurement processes.
The advantages of this joint procurement are sometimes significantly reduced when individual members of consortia introduce bespoke requirements for their authority into a wider, generic contract. Whilst it is recognised that local differences between authorities may make bespoke arrangements a necessity, these should be challenged at all times and minimised as much as possible.
The procurement of library technology has been particularly challenging. Traditionally, in procuring an LMS, for example, a very detailed specification has been developed and then incorporated into the tender process. This has usually set out ‘what’ needed to be provided as well as ‘how’, limiting the scope for innovation in the market and often leading to a poor quality user experience. The specifications used have also not included common requirements for interoperability, meaning that it often difficult for authorities to change products easily and to collate and analyse data.
The issues of interoperability would be mitigated through consistent use of the Library Communications Framework being developed by the Book Industry Communication group (BIC). This is likely to reduce costs to the suppliers, and thus libraries, as well as smoothing the customer journey.
Councils deliver around 80% of local services and are located in and form part of the communities they serve. As the focal point of the community libraries are uniquely placed to support this transformation.
Co-location can involve spaces shared with:
- community based services such as council, health, business support and learning organisations
- public sector organisations, there are opportunities for this through the One Public Estate programme
- private sector partners such as the Post Office and voluntary and community groups, like the Citizens Advice Bureau
This can work better for local communities and bring benefits including:
- services are easier for users to access and reach more people
- skills and knowledge exchanges
- making efficiency savings for councils
Co-location of services can relate to varying degrees of integration, from a library service providing a one stop shop for council services, to sharing space in a community hub with other organisations. Medway Community Hubs are an example of libraries providing access to council services such as planning, housing, benefits and environmental services. In addition some of the flexible space within the buildings have enabled other public service agencies to operate on a surgery basis, for example, health, the police and debt advice.
Case study: Medway Community Hubs
Opportunities generated by One Public Estate programme
The One Public Estate programme is a partnership project between the Local Government Association (LGA) and Cabinet Office which was launched in June 2013. It is designed to allow local authorities to work with central government and local agencies to release assets and share land and property information across the public sector. It may be prudent for local authorities already in the One Public Estate programme to consider libraries as part of their proposals.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus are currently considering their future estate strategy. Consideration could be given to exploring the co-location of libraries with job centres. The Symington building in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, contains the library and Jobcentre Plus along with customer services for the council, district and county council offices and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Bromsgrove Library in Worcestershire contains a library, registrar office, Jobcentre Plus, council offices, a customer service centre and a community hall.
Benefits for both organisations could include retaining services on a geographical basis, reducing overhead costs and property savings.
Commissioning and procurement are not the same. For example, a commissioning strategy may result in procurement or could require a policy change. But commissioning of services does requires a choice to be made about the right mechanism to best achieve the desired outcomes.
Some library services continue to use traditional governance and delivery models but many are beginning to examine new ways of developing, delivering and devolving their services through the commissioning process.
Models being explored include outsourcing the library service to a third-party organisation such as a mutual, trust or Community Interest Company (CIC).
Library services through the Cultural Commissioning Programme funded by Arts Council England are positioning themselves to ensure that the contribution made to the wider corporate agenda is universally acknowledged and interventions are shaped locally to deliver outcomes that support commissioner’s priorities.
Know how non profit is a useful resource for policy makers, commissioners and library services to understand cultural commissioning and the local government context. It also gives information on measuring impact and delivering outcomes. An example of successful commissioning is the national Books on Prescription (BOP) scheme, where many library services have been locally commissioned to deliver the BOP dementia programme. Commissioners have in some cases helped to fund the purchase of book collections, promotional leaflets, activities and launches. In addition they have also publicised the scheme amongst colleagues and local health practitioners to encourage referrals.
As safe, neutral, free to access, spaces, libraries can be suitable venues for the provision of commissioned services, such as children’s centres. Commissioning can bring other advantages in addition to income streams, such as new audiences, increased library membership and usage.
The National Audit Office have also published a Successful Commissioning Toolkit that provides guidance in developing an effective financial relationship between a public body and a third sector organisation.
4.4 Exploring digital technology
The digital revolution has fundamentally changed society and consequently the landscape in which libraries operate. The pace of change is expected to increase over the next few years.
Councils are transforming the way they deliver services by redesigning, reorganising and reforming. Technology has a key part to play and more information about the strategic approach to this agenda can be found in LGA’s report Transforming local public services.
In response to financial challenges and the desire to improve library access over and above staffed hours there are low tech and high tech solutions for access to library buildings. A low tech solution for providing community access to libraries is some local authorities offer the keys to the building to community groups to run events out of hours. New high tech solutions can enable libraries to remain open outside of staffed hours on a self service basis. This uses controlled access systems, CCTV, remotely controlled heating and lighting, self service kiosks and communication systems. This technology can be purchased as a commercial package, or ‘self-assembled’ from the component parts by a local authority.
There are a few things to consider with this solution. Prior to implementation, it will be necessary to have undertaken a risk assessment and considered the building layout. With reference to safeguarding, some authorities using these systems do not allow under 16s to use the library unless accompanied by an adult. This does not reflect a limitation of the technology, but rather the risk management strategy of the local authority. Given this implementation by some local authorities, it is important that staffed hours meet the requirements of children and young adults who wish to visit the library unaccompanied.
Digital technology also enables library services to review their work processes, make efficiency savings and reallocate staff roles to best meet the needs of the community. For example, the introduction of automated self service (for customers to issue / return their own stock) using Radio-frequency Identification and automated stock procurement and management.
Case study: Peterborough Library Service open+
4.5 Income Generation
Library services provide a range of free services in keeping with the statutory duty of library authorities, but there is still scope for library services to charge for services / programmes that are an enhancement on the basic offer. If operating as a local authority, any charges are limited to cost recovery, but if the purpose is to generate a surplus, then a trading arm would be required for public sector library services. Different governance models for the delivery of library services offer more opportunities for library services to generate income.
Findings from an Arts Council England funded report exploring the income generation for public libraries found that an entrepreneurial approach to developing new purchased products, services or facilities could provide a number of benefits. These include:
- attracting new customers
- improving footfall
- generating additional income
Opportunities for income generation in libraries can be categorised as:
- non library service public contracts
- private sector service contracts / partnerships with the private sector
- direct trading and retail
- paid for services
- emergent digital services
- charities / trusts / foundations / philanthropy
- fundraising / crowdfunding / social impact bonds
- precepts from parish and town councils to support libraries
- Community Infrastructure Levy / Section 106 agreements
Income generation may require investment to ensure that the facilities are fit for purpose and a need to attract staff with commercial skills to keep abreast of changing market trends. The Culture White Paper sets out the government’s vision, strategy and proposals for the cultural sectors (the arts, museums and galleries, libraries, archives and heritage). It recognises the need to develop commercial expertise in the cultural sector and a virtual Commercial Academy for Culture will be set up.
Non library service public contracts
These refer to instances where library service providers are commissioned by public bodies to deliver services not part of the core library offer. For example, with Warwickshire Direct libraries deliver front desk services for the local police.
Private sector service contracts / partnerships with the private sector
In order to generate income, libraries need to be more commercially minded and work with a range of partners. Different revenue streams could include parcel collection, marketing, advertising and sponsorship.
Concerns exist as to the potential perception of ‘commercialisation’ of the library sector if it more actively seeks to work in partnership with the private sector. However, these risks are manageable if any partnerships entered into are assessed carefully and a ‘memorandum of understanding’ setting out ways of working are agreed between all parties.
Case study: Amazon lockers in libraries
Direct trading and retail
Many library services benefit from having a high street presence which can create a sense of place and help to revitalise the high street. Libraries can also benefit from this location by engaging in retail activity, vending machines, cafes and pop-up shops.
There is also an opportunity for libraries to use space to create an exhibition area and take commission from sales of art exhibitions.
Paid for services
With the introduction of free wifi and increasing use of library space by the business community including SMEs and start ups, there is an opportunity for libraries to charge for:
- room hire
- landing place extras such as wifi printing, laptop hire and working space
- business advice
- cultural events
- photo reproductions from library stock
- database research
Emergent digital services
Emergent digital services also provide income generating opportunities such as:
- a collection point for on demand 3D printing
- publishing on demand including e-books
- maker spaces
- selling advertising space (on library web page)
- digitisation services, eg. digitising library owned material and selling the digital copies
Charities / trusts/ foundations / philanthropy
Recognising the financial challenges, several library services across the country have set up trusts, an example being The Manchester Central Library Development Trust. This is an independent charity which supports activities in Manchester Central Library beyond the core library service.
Case study: Manchester Central Library Development Trust
Charities can access investment from trusts and foundations, private sector entities which support charitable objectives by making donations. Arts Council England also provide information on sources of funding.
Fundraising / crowdfunding / social impact bonds
Library fundraising can take place on a daily basis and have different levels of complexity. If operating as a charity or having a charity partner, it would be pragmatic to create an online presence and fundraise. There are numerous charity fundraising websites, so making the right decision in choosing a fundraising platform is crucial in terms of social media presence, features and security. Other considerations include creating an online library donation page and asking for support through Friends of the Library Group, bequests and planned giving.
The American Library Association have created a Frontline Fundraising Toolkit that includes the section Getting started in eight easy steps.
The Culture White Paper discusses crowdfunding as a way of financing cultural projects. It also mentions a new pilot scheme to explore the opportunities for matched crowdfunding and to build the evidence base to support the growth of this fundraising method.
Precepts from parish and town councils to support libraries
Occasionally parish councils have contributed to the funding of a local library to stop the library closing or to ensure opening hours are maintained.
Community Infrastructure Levy
The Community Infrastructure Levy came into force in April 2010. It allows local authorities in England and Wales to raise funds from developers undertaking new building projects in their area. The money can be used to fund a wide range of infrastructure that is needed as a result of development and this includes libraries.
4.6 Funding resources for project work
It is vital to plan new interventions and projects so that libraries can continue to deliver and extend their work in the fields of health and wellbeing, digital, culture, and engaging with hard to reach groups. A number of organisations provide advice and guidance on how to make an application for related funding. Note that there is no guarantee that these organisations will fund library-related activity. These include:
- Arts Council England
- Clore Duffield Grants
- The Golden Bottle Trust
- Marc Fitch Fund
- The Mercers Company
- The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (NMCT)
- Paul Hamlyn Foundation
- The Pilgrim Trust
- The Wellcome Trust
5. Additional resources
5.1 Information on community rights
5.2 Information on the provision and development of library services
The Arts Council is the development agency for libraries in England and has responsibility for supporting and developing libraries in England. It has produced a number of reports with the focus on libraries as the hub of the community.
CILIP produced What makes a good library? Guidelines for portfolio holders in 2010 on public library provision in England.
LGA provides a wide range of information and advice for local government including the report Local Solutions for Future Local Library Services, 2012.
The Society of Chief Librarians and partners including the Arts Council and the Reading Agency have developed the Universal Offers (reading, information, digital, health and learning) which have been informed by customer research.
5.3 Information for rural services
Useful documents include:
- Rural library services in England: exploring recent changes and possible futures, 2014, a report commissioned by Defra and Arts Council England
- the Rural Services Network is a membership organisation devoted to safeguarding and improving services in rural communities across England who provide information and resources including case studies