Latest Public Sector News

30.03.16

Libraries need community management to survive job losses and closures – Locality

British libraries may need to look into community management to survive as they face high rates of job losses and closures, community organisations network Locality has said.

An investigation by the BBC showed that the number of jobs in British libraries has fallen by 25%, from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now. In the same period, the number of unpaid volunteers working in libraries rose from 15,861 to 31,403.

The total number of council-run libraries decreased from 4,290 to 3,765. Of these, 343 closed, 174 were transferred to community groups and 58 were outsourced. In Sefton, Brent, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland, more than half of libraries closed.

Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality, said that community leadership may be a good solution for avoiding library closures.

He said: “Library services play a vitally important role in our communities and it’s essential that we safeguard them for the future. With libraries under increasing pressure, driven in part by cuts to local authority budgets and changing patterns in use, councils need to look at ways to make them more robust so they can continue to provide this important service for their communities.

“Research by Locality has highlighted some practical ideas for libraries to generate additional income and, while some local authorities are looking for new and innovative ways of making their libraries more sustainable, there is more that could be done to help libraries to become more resilient in the face of funding cuts by diversifying their function and income base.

“Community-led libraries can provide a means of maintaining and enhancing library services but effective partnership between local authorities and communities is needed. Transferring libraries into community management takes time and is not a zero cost option but, done properly, can ensure library services are provided for generations to come.”

In the past six years, 50 new libraries have been founded. However, 111 are proposed for closure in the next year.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy found that more than 100 council-ran libraries closed in 2014-15 as the result of a £50m drop in council funding.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Libraries are cornerstones of their communities and are part of the fabric of our society, so it's vital they continue to innovate in order to meet the changing demands of those they serve.

"Government is helping libraries to modernise by funding a wi-fi roll-out across England that has benefitted more than 1,000 libraries and increasing access to digital services and e-lending.

"The Libraries Taskforce is also consulting on a new vision for public libraries that will help reinvigorate the service and ensure they remain relevant to local communities."

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