Twelve per cent of libraries soon to have "significant" community support

Twelve per cent of all libraries could have “significant" support from volunteers in the near-future, according to research commissioned by Arts Council England and the Local Government Association.

In a "stakeholder forum" meeting with library campaigners, held on Monday (10th December), the Society of Chief Librarians shared the findings, which show 425 libraries are community supported, or are considering becoming so. This represents an increase of 150% from the current number of 170.

ACE said community supported libraries would be: “Council-led and funded, usually with paid professional staff, but with significant support from volunteers”. The precise definition of "significant" could not be currently be made, the spokesperson said, but some libraries would be entirely volunteer-run. The full research will be published next year.

SCL, which supports the use of library volunteers in "professionally managed frameworks", said that volunteers could double the number of staff at some service points, reducing costs. They said that if there were no job substitutions, libraries would close.

Statistics released by CIPFA on Monday (10th December) revealed that more than 200 libraries have been closed in the past year.

The inaugural stakeholder forum meeting is designed to be the first of a series of regular dialogues with library campaigners, the SCL and ACE. It was attended by representatives of Voices for the Library, the Library Campaign and the National Federation of Women's Institutes, as well as other campaigners such as Desmond Clarke.

While SCL used the meeting to explain that as they do not have a public role they cannot directly be a campaigning body, they wanted to explore their "common purpose" with campaigners.
In a blog post following the meeting, SCL said: "[Attendees] agreed that they do all share a common purpose and, whilst approaching that from different perspectives, there is the opportunity to work together."

They said that although: "It was clear that whilst the last three years have been difficult, the next few are going to be equally tough," they agreed that "that today's meeting was the first of what is hoped will be a continued dialogue with library campaigners."