The proportion of ‘community libraries’ in the UK either run by or supported by volunteers is likely to rise from 5 per cent of the total number of libraries in July to almost 13 per cent in the near future, according to a report published yesterday.
Community Libraries – Learning From Experience: guiding principles for local authorities, written by the local infrastructure body Locality for Arts Council England and the Local Government Association, is based on research carried out in July and provides information and guidance for local authorities that are interested in using the community library model.
In July, it says, 178 of the 3,300 public libraries in the UK had some element of community involvement, which ranged from "independent community libraries that own their own assets through to council-led and funded libraries whose paid professional staff are supported by volunteers".
The report says there are already plans to increase the number of community libraries to more than 425, just under 13 per cent of the total. It says that many local authorities are still reviewing their library policies, so this number could increase further.
According to the report, about 40 per cent of community libraries are "community managed" – the council remains involved but the service is led by the community. Another 40 per cent are "community supported" – the council remains in charge but there is substantial volunteer support. Of these two groups, about one in six involves some asset transfer to the community.
Another 15 per cent of community libraries are managed by charities or social enterprises commissioned by councils, and 5 per cent are completely independent.
The report says that many communities have been keen to become involved in their libraries, and that many different models can be used. However, it says, the movement remains in its infancy, so the long-term effectiveness of community management is not clear.