Devon Libraries to be privately-owned by library staff

Devon Libraries to be privately-owned by library staff

Devon County Council is set to approve the creation of a new private organisation owned by library staff and the community to run its libraries next week (11th November).

The plans, if approved by Devon Council's cabinet next week, will see the new company owned by staff and managed by a chief executive and board of trustees to ensure the service remains "economically viable," Public Sector Executive has reported.

The new organisation will be a public service mutual and the county council will be responsible for it.

The company’s official name will be Libraries Unlimited South West but will operate as Devon Libraries. It will legally be a “company limited by guarantee with charitable status”, optimising commercial and charitable benefits – including up to 80% relief on business rates.

The council believes the new model will work in a more “dynamic and entrepreneurial” way as the company will be able to apply for grants and funds outside the council’s reach.

Cllr Roger Croad, the county council’s cabinet member responsible for the service, said: “These ambitious plans will give our libraries the opportunity to grow, and the communities who enjoy the services on offer, and the staff that enjoy providing them, will have a real stake and influence over their future.

“They will have a more direct say in the running of the library service because they will own the new organisation as part of the public service mutual, and their interests will be directly presented on the board of the organisation, whose sole focus will be running excellent libraries.”

The council is considering plans to ensure the organisation remains cost-effective, which include developing a system that can generate income by renting out space, and working with other councils and the wider business to provide other services thus maximising its use. There are also plans to expand the traditional reading, learning and information services to include support for enterprise, digital opportunities and residents’ health and wellbeing.

Croad emphasised that Devon’s libraries are about “much more than just books”. He said they were also meant to support the community’s wellbeing, children’s attainment and overall economic growth.

“This new independent organisation will secure the future of Devon’s library service and ensure it continues to develop to meet the changing needs of these communities who are at its core," Croad said.

If the council's cabinet approves the service next Wednesday (11th November), the remaining board members will be recruited from library staff, Library Friends Groups and independent trustees over the coming months. Services will begin from April 2016.