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Libraries must become more ‘risk-taking’ fundraisers says report

Libraries must become “enterprising and risk-taking” fundraisers if they are to remain afloat, a new report says.

A research paper from community network Locality has urged libraries to become “more enterprising” to cover the combined pressures of declining borrowing rates and mounting austerity measures.

The income generated by libraries only covers a fraction of their operating costs but the report looks at a five library authorities that are pioneering alternative approaches to generate income and ensure their services become more sustainable.

The five pilot projects – Nottingham City Council, Cultural Community Solutions Ltd, Gateshead Council, Upper Norwood Library Trust and Poole Council – tested out a range of income-generating activities, including the development of a performing arts hub, creative work spaces, children’s holiday clubs and parties, cafes and room hire, digital technology and retail.

In several London boroughs Cultural Community Solutions (CCS) is developing Creative Work Spaces in its libraries. The idea is to enable individuals to use tools and support to develop hobbies, creativity and even business ideas. CCS also explored the potential to generate income from the delivery of related specialist workshops, such as teaching people how to operate 3D printers.

Gateshead Council has developed a school holidays service programme for its central library, providing a creative, educational and distinctive holiday club offer to generate income for the library service.

Nottingham City Libraries has established plans to transform its music and drama lending service, from being heavily subsidised to one which is likely to become self-funding, with the potential to generate a surplus longer term.

However Locality added that while library authorities needed to become more innovative with their existing assets, providers should not compromise on their ethos.

Locality CEO Tony Armstrong 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, this research highlights some practical ideas for libraries to generate additional income.

“We hope that this report inspires other libraries all over the country to look for new and innovative ways of helping to sustain themselves so they can continue to provide important services for their communities and respond to changing needs.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Natalie Willis   10/06/2015 at 08:20

This is absolutely correct. Libraries have to move forward into a digital age and have the competitive advantage by being at the heart of the community, already in a position of trust and responsibility. They can be innovative in their thinking in order to become a national treasure.

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